Gareth Southgate understands why traveling fans booed him full time, but was optimistic about England’s performance following a defeat to Italy that saw them suffer relegation from the Nations League.
Considered among the favorites to win the World Cup in Qatar, things went wrong for the runner-up of Euro 2020 at just the wrong time.
The Nations League defeats to Hungary ended a meager four-game record in June, with a 1-0 defeat in Budapest followed by a closed-door draw in Germany against Italy.
Molineux’s 4-0 win against the Hungarians left them at a crossroads heading to Milan, where Giacomo Raspadori secured the Azzurri a 1-0 victory that sentenced the Three Lions to relegation from the top flight.
It was an embarrassing obstacle on the road just 59 days into the opening of the World Cup against Iran and led some of the 4,415 traveling fans to boo full-time Southgate.
“Look, it’s really hard to pinpoint why we’re not scoring because I think we’re getting into the right areas,” said the England manager.
“We have had the moments that we would have had in the past. We just didn’t deliver that last piece of quality tonight.
“I understand the reaction in the end because these are the results we have had in this competition and, yes, it is an understandable emotional reaction.”
England’s five-game winless streak is their longest since 2014 and means they were relegated with Monday’s Nations League home game against reserve Germany.
“Well, it’s hard for me to be too critical of performance,” Southgate said. “We had more ball possession, more shots, more shots on goal. I think for big parts we played very well.
“We didn’t face the decisive moment on defense and we had moments where we had a chance to be more decisive in the last third and our quality wasn’t quite right.
“It’s a spell where obviously the results will ultimately be the thing everyone reacts to, but I thought there were a lot of positive signs for us as a team tonight.
“I think there have been a lot of good individual performances. Personally, I thought the performance was a step in the right direction.
“But I fully understand, due to the result, that it will not be the external reaction.”
Indeed, it was a tepid response from England in June and an alarming penultimate match before the World Cup as the team looked toothless in attack and fragile in defense.
“We said we are not in an ideal situation in terms of the number of players who regularly play at a high level,” Southgate said. “But we have to keep working on it and we have to make sure we stay on track.
“There will be a huge amount of noise, of course, but it has been created since the summer, really, and I understand that perfectly.
“The players in the locker room know this was a match they could have won and if they take advantage of their chances and defend the goal better then we win. They are fine margins.
We are playing with some of the biggest football nations and thin margins are decisive. “
Italy will not be at the World Cup this winter and coach Roberto Mancini was happy with his team’s victory on Friday night.
“We defeated England, which is one of the strongest national teams in the world,” he said. “The game system doesn’t matter.
“What matters is the personality that a team has, the desire to attack and to stay at the top – and in this sense we have been very good. The victory was deserved “.