Gareth Southgate praises England’s impressive rebound following Scotland defeat

    Gareth Southgate has been delighted with the determination, cohesion and mentality of his players over the past week as England continue to push towards their goal of winning Euro 2024.

    Having reached the final of the last edition and impressed with December’s trip to France for the World Cup quarter-finals, the focus is on finally securing silverware in Germany next summer.

    Victory in their first four Group C matches means England are well past securing their place in the finals, and Saturday’s dismal 1-1 qualifying draw against Ukraine drew criticism.

    Southgate’s side secured a brilliant 3-1 friendly win over old foes Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday, bringing a successful camp to a triumphant end.

    “We’re constantly building,” the England manager said. “We want to keep improving, we keep pushing the players.

    “We were also able to experiment a little this week. Two new central defenders came into the team (Marc Guey and Lewis Dunk), both relatively inexperienced, and both performed very well.

    “But some of our senior players are very influential – (Kyle) Walker and (Kieran) Trippier were absolutely outstanding (against Scotland).

    “The influence our senior players have on this group simply cannot be underestimated.

    “Of course, a lot of the headlines will be on some of our young players and that’s understandable, but the way the group is formed and how they carry themselves as a team is the key to us getting the results we had (last night). “

    Southgate’s side are among the favorites to win the Euros next summer, with former international Joe Cole calling them the best England team he has seen in his life.

    “Everyone else can appreciate it,” the manager said when it was suggested to him after his impressive triumph at Hampden Park.

    “I think we want to keep pushing the players.

    “I’m very pleased with this week. If you had said to me before the game, “How was your week?” I would say: “Great.”

    “The players were completely committed, supported each other, trained very well, responded well to a disappointing performance but a really important and good result in Ukraine.

    “We needed that mentality that we showed and they created it. They were absolutely excellent (at Hampden).”

    It was an impressive team effort with Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham on Mount Florida.

    The 20-year-old played a part in Phil Foden’s opening goal and scored his second international goal three minutes later.

    Bellingham didn’t stop there and finished the game with man of the match with a superb pass to Harry Kane after Harry Maguire’s own goal had temporarily given Hampden hope.

    “Well, he was excellent,” Southgate said of the young midfielder. “We thought this position might cause problems.

    “I mean we knew we needed the athleticism to press Scotland because their midfielders can dictate the game if you let them, so that was key.

    “But we knew our system of play could create some overload and his big strikers with Marcus (Rashford), especially when Harry was going low and Phil was going low, it gave us a real outlet.

    “So it was a good balance for the team with Calvin (Phillips) and Dec (Rice) doing a brilliant job of clearing things out, destroying things and keeping the ball moving well.”

    The players now return to club duties ahead of a friendly at Wembley against Australia and a qualifier against Euro 2020 winners Italy next month.

    The Group C leaders’ lead at the top could be reduced to three points by the time they host the Azzurri, but bookmakers’ odds of 1-250 for England to qualify for Euro 2024 highlight their strong position.

    Scotland are also on the cusp of qualifying, having won their first five qualifying matches.

    Steve Clarke’s men would even have qualified on Tuesday if Norway and Georgia had drawn, but instead the wait continues as they travel to second-placed Spain next month hoping to respond to a crippling defeat to Auld Enemy.

    Asked by Southgate whether there was a big gap between England and Scotland, he replied: “No, I just think, look, we played exceptionally well.

    “We were able to negate a lot of the threats that Scotland pose, so it was a really good performance from us.

    “I think the Scottish fans should be really proud of the way their team are doing and the work Steve is doing.

    “I’m sure the outcome will be very violent, but we’ve only been talking about this for three days and I’m sure Steve is smart enough to remain calm about it.

    “We played well, we won the game, but on another night it could look very different.”

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