Southgate faces defining moment as England suffer Euro jeers

'We have to stay calm and find good solutions to improve,' said the England head coach..

Accused of failing to get the best out of his talented side and subjected to furious jeers from frustrated fans, England boss Gareth Southgate faces a defining moment in his bid to win Euro 2024.

England arrived in Germany as the bookmakers’ favourites to win the tournament, but they have struggled to live up to the hype in a pair of spluttering performances against Serbia and Denmark.

Southgate’s team were fortunate to escape with a 1-0 win over Serbia after a limp second half display in their Group C opener and they fared even worse in Thursday’s lacklustre 1-1 draw with Denmark.

Despite taking the lead through Harry Kane’s early goal, England quickly lost their momentum and Morten Hjulmand’s long-range rocket gave Denmark a deserved point.

With so much expected of an England squad packed with world-class players including Jude Bellingham, Kane and Phil Foden, the response to their feeble displays is growing increasingly vitriolic.

Thousands of England supporters in Frankfurt booed Southgate and their team after the final whistle, while former Three Lions stars Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand were scathing about the manager’s tactics and team selection.

Shearer was especially pointed in his criticism of Southgate, saying: “Gareth is not getting the best out of England’s best players.

“It was very poor. There was no energy, no pace to the game. We got caught too many times on the ball, too many sloppy passes. The players look shattered, there’s no excuse for that.”

Southgate’s failure to help Foden reproduce his brilliant form with champions Manchester City — which earned him the Premier League’s Player of the Year award — is a recurring bone of contention with his critics.

Foden slightly improved against Denmark after being anonymous in the Serbia game, but was still inconsistent on the left flank, with his best performances for City coming in a central role.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand claimed Southgate is playing Foden and Real Madrid midfielder Bellingham out of position.

“The balance of the team is not allowing the players to reach the levels that they have done for clubs,” he said.

“Foden is out of position and not playing his best, maybe Bellingham would be better playing at number eight. It’s a big concern.”

– ‘We’re not flowing’ –

Southgate did his best to face the criticism head on in an honest post-match press conference after the Denmark match.

He conceded his gamble to use Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold as a central midfielder was not a resounding success.

“We know it’s an experiment,” he said. “We don’t have a natural replacement for Kalvin Philips. We’re trying different things and at the moment we’re not flowing as we’d like.

“We have been trying to find a solution in midfield for seven or eight years. If we didn’t have Declan Rice, I don’t know where we would be.”

After pre-tournament injuries to Kane, Bukayo Saka and Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw, the England boss believes his side lack energy and cohesion.

“We have to find a way to get the right balance. We don’t have our best left-back available. That denies you that balance,” Southgate said.

‘It’s not easy’

Often criticised for adopting cautious tactics when his men have taken the lead, Southgate insisted he doesn’t tell England to sit back.

“No. I think we’ve played teams that are quite fluid in back threes and it’s not easy to get pressure on them,” he said.

While Germany and Spain have laid down significant markers at the Euros, insipid England have won just two of their last seven games in all competitions.

After several near-misses in tournaments during his reign, Southgate is concerned England are struggling to cope with the pressure of chasing the nation’s first trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

But despite the gathering storm clouds, his team will still reach the last 16 as group winners if they beat Slovenia on Tuesday.

“We have to stay calm and find good solutions to improve,” Southgate said.

“I have to lead the group in the right way and make intelligent decisions so we can be better.”

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