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Euro 2024: Another night of angst for England fans as Gareth Southgate hopes for perspective ahead of knockouts | UK News

Going into the knockout phase as unbeaten group winners – surely England would have taken that before the Euros?

Try telling the fans to be satisfied with the drab displays they’ve witnessed so far in Germany.

Just two goals – from Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane.

Only one win – secured by Bellingham in the Group C opener against Serbia.

Two draws – the stalemate against Denmark followed by last night ending scoreless with Slovenia.

No wonder some supporters seemed to be spotted snoozing in Cologne. Many more were heard jeering at full time.

Some empty cups were even seen being thrown.

England head coach Gareth Southgate after the final whistle against Slovenia. Pic: PA
Gareth Southgate after the final whistle against Slovenia. Pic: PA

And once Gareth Southgate and his players had departed the pitch in Cologne, the lingering discontent was digested inside the stadium.

“I understand it,” Southgate said. “I’m not going to back away from it.

“The most important thing here is that the supporters stay with the team.”

Who could England face in the knockout rounds?

‘Typical English performance’

They are loyal and committed.

You only had to see, and hear, the thousands of Three Lions fans packed in a central square in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral on Tuesday.

It’s why so many have spent hundreds of pounds (and counting) to follow the team over the last couple of weeks so far in Germany.

But they are not convinced by Southgate and question why he cannot get the players gelling as an effective, exciting attacking team.

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group C - England v Slovenia - Cologne Stadium, Cologne, Germany - June 25, 2024 England manager Gareth Southgate with players after the match REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Pic: Reuters

“It was a typical English performance,” said William Day, a fan from Kent, leaving the stadium.

“We underperform with a team of individual, brilliant players, but we don’t play as a team. And we were very fortunate not to lose to Denmark.

“I think we were the better side tonight. But we were in a very easy group and we struggled and how we came top of it, I can’t imagine. I really can’t imagine.”

At least, Southgate’s substitutions did make an impact.

The team looked more effective once Kobbie Mainoo arrived in the second half with Southgate praising the Manchester United midfielder’s ability to move the ball up the pitch.

Pic: PA
Pic: PA

Is Mainoo the solution Southgate was searching for when initially dropping Trent Alexander-Arnold for Conor Gallagher before bringing on the 19-year-old?

There was praise too among fans for Cole Palmer and Anthony Gordon finally being deployed in the second half.

“The game got better,” said Anna-Marie Harris, who has driven over to follow the Euros.

“I’m pleased he was prepared to play Gordon and a few of the extras. Not stick with the routine he had before. So hopefully fingers crossed.”

But there is not much hope of the road trip going all the way with the Euro 2020 runners-up to another final, in Berlin on 14 July.

“We’re top of the group,” she continued. “It will come home to roost if we play like that again, won’t it?”

Southgate hoping for perspective

The frustration with Southgate is clear, with the England faithful lacking belief he can get the most out of the talent available.

Back inside the stadium, long after the booing, the boss seemed perplexed to be addressing another night of angst among the travelling support.

“I understand the sort of narrative towards me and that’s better for the team than it being towards them,” Southgate said.

England fans at Central Park, Newcastle, watching England's final group game. Pic: PA
England fans at Central Park, Newcastle, watching England’s final group game. Pic: PA

“But it is creating an unusual environment to operate in. I’ve not seen any other team qualify and receive similar.”

Just look at Group D.

The Netherlands, who could face England in the last-16 on Sunday, lost to Austria after only picking up four points from their opening games.

France, the World Cup runners-up in 2022, only managed a win and two draws.

And the hosts Germany did win their group but not with a 100% record and requiring a stoppage-time equaliser to draw with Switzerland.

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Then there are the neighbours, Scotland. Euro 2024 was their 12th tournament without making it into the knockout phase. Just one point was collected from their three matches here.

So Southgate is hoping for some perspective, rather than dwelling on the two wins from their last eight matches perhaps.

“I’m very, very proud of the players,” he said, “and how they are operating within it.”

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