Southgate expects Euro charge despite drab draw with North Macedonia
England’s striker #20 Harry Kane (R) celebrates a goal wduring the UEFA Euro 2024 group C qualification football match between North Macedonia and England at National Arena “Todor Proeski” in Skopje on November 20, 2023. (Photo by Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP)
Gareth Southgate insists England’s lacklustre finish to the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign will mean nothing when they start their bid to win the tournament in Germany.
Such are the expectations that Southgate is working under these days that qualifying with an unbeaten record from a potentially tricky group including Italy and Ukraine earned him few plaudits.
Being held to a 1-1 draw by North Macedonia on Monday meant England failed to beat a side as low as 66th in the FIFA rankings for the first time since 2016, when they drew with Slovenia.
But with a runners-up finish at the last European Championship in 2021, as well as World Cup semi-final and quarter-final appearances in the Southgate era, England’s status as one of the Euro favourites is well earned after six victories from their eight qualifiers.
And Southgate is confident England’s drab end to the qualifying campaign will prove nothing more than an irrelevant blip.
“The really big results were in March against Italy and Ukraine. It meant coming here was a completely different test,” he said.
“I thought that given we had already qualified and everything had been achieved the mentality of the players was excellent.
“The quality on the ball was good on a difficult pitch. Just that final pass or finish was difficult to find. But I thought there were lots of positive performances.”
One area of concern for Southgate could be his team’s struggle to pierce the massed ranks of North Macedonia and Malta’s defences over the last