Saturday 21 September 2019

Southgate urges England to go for jugular

England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters
England manager Gareth Southgate. Photo: Reuters

Matt Law

Gareth Southgate has told his England players they must go for the jugular against Croatia tomorrow in a match for which he will bring back all his big guns.

England would win their Uefa Nations League group and qualify for next summer's finals with victory at Wembley.

But they are also in the precarious position of knowing a score draw or defeat would consign them to last place, and relegation to League B. A goalless draw would leave them second, thus maintaining their League A status.

But Southgate is not interested in trying to avoid relegation or shutting up shop as he intends to bring back his first-choice front three of captain Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford, while Ross Barkley is expected to start in midfield.

It will make for an attacking line-up, but Southgate is determined not to blow England's chance of winning the group ahead of Croatia and Spain, and wants to sign off 2018 in style. The manager held a debrief with his players yesterday, going over the United States friendly.

He delivered the criticism of their defensive play that he had been unable to dish out straight after the game due to Wayne Rooney's send-off.

Southgate reiterated that England must be aggressive and hunt down the ball against Croatia, who beat Spain in stoppage time on Thursday to set up tomorrow's decider, or risk being caught out.

On how his team would approach the make-or-break game, Southgate said: "It's dead simple, really. We just go for it. There's no point in hedging our bets that we might do this, we might do that, or we need a 0-0.

"We want to send our fans away with a performance that excites them and we have got a chance to get through what's been a really strong group, so, for me, we just focus on going for the win.

"We've got players who should feel on this stage that it's their moment to deliver and show what they can do.

"I know they're hugely excited at hearing the Croatia result and realising there's an opportunity to aim for something again, rather than a game that's just for pride."

The inaugural Nations League games have helped England to maintain their momentum from the World Cup and tomorrow's match is already a sell-out.

Southgate said: "I have felt all along that the beauty of it was that it was going to be a really good test against other top teams.

None of us could really predict how it would fall or what it would look like, especially on the back of the summer, but it has built to a really exciting finish, certainly in our group.

England have an injury doubt over Jadon Sancho, who complained of pain in his foot after the victory over the United States, in which he made his first start.

© The Daily Telegraph, London

  • England v Croatia, tomorrow, Live, Sky Sports, 2.0

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