Gareth Southgate says England’s loss to Italy is ‘a step in the right direction’

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

Gareth Southgate has said he will take responsibility for England’s dismal form after the manager was booed by his own supporters following his team’s bland 1-0 loss to Italy last night.

England’s preparations for the World Cup suffered another dent after Giacomo Raspadori’s superb goal condemned them to relegation from the top flight of the Nations League. The Euro 2020 finalists, who are certain to finish bottom of Group A3, have gone five games without a win in competition for the first time since 1992 and have not scored in open play for 450 minutes, their worst run in 22 years.

Related: England condemned to relegation from the League of Nations after terrible defeat against Italy

The statistics made it hard to accept that Southgate called the exhibition against Italy “a step in the right direction”. The 52-year-old, who described the taunting of the roving support at the San Siro as an “understandable emotional reaction”, insisted England had simply not handled thin margins well enough against opponents who failed to qualify for the World Cup. .

However, Southgate, who was also mobbed by supporters after England lost 4-0 to Hungary in June, acknowledged the situation was far from ideal as Qatar 2022 approaches. Monday’s game against Germany at Wembley is England’s last game before their World Cup debut against Iran and Southgate accepted he is under increasing scrutiny.

“We’re where we are in terms of time, so we’ve got to do the best we can to keep the guys on track,” Southgate said. “Tonight’s reaction will be driven by the result, but we weren’t too far off in terms of performance. I have to make the players believe in what they are doing.

“We are on a losing streak. It’s up to us to fix that. The only way to do that is to stick to what we believe in, stick to what has given us success in previous tournaments, and in the end, the players have to stick together.

“There’s going to be a lot of noise, but it’s going to be all around me and that’s absolutely fine. It’s my job to take that pressure for them.” England are one of two countries yet to score a goal without a penalty this Nations League campaign, the other being San Marino, but Southgate said he saw positive signs.

Related: England look weaker than at any time in the Southgate era | barney ronay

“It’s hard for me to be too critical of acting,” he said. “We had more possession, more shots, more shots on goal. For big roles we play very well. We didn’t deal with the decisive moment defensively and we had moments to be more decisive in their final third and our quality wasn’t all that good.

“I thought there were a lot of positives tonight. Lots of good individual performances. Personally, I thought the performance was a step in the right direction, but I fully understand that due to the result, that will not be the reaction.”

Declan Rice said that England will improve in attack. “It’s disappointing,” said the midfielder. “In the League of Nations we have slipped our standards. I didn’t think it was all bad tonight. We controlled the game and passed the ball well. We just lacked that edge. I see in training that there are goals for fun. Trust me, we’re going to be fine.”

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