Gareth Southgate sees positives from England despite facing boos after Italy defeat

Gareth Southgate understands why he was booed by traveling fans for full time, but he was upbeat about England’s performance after a loss to Italy saw them relegated from the Nations League.

Considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup in Qatar, things went awry for the Euro 2020 runners-up at the wrong time.

Nations League defeats to Hungary marked a miserable four-match run in June, with a 1-0 loss in Budapest followed by draws in Germany behind closed doors against Italy.

Molineux’s 4-0 win against the Magyars left them at a crossroads on the way to Milan, where Giacomo Raspadori secured the absent Azzurri a 1-0 win that condemned the Three Lions to relegation from the top flight.

It was an embarrassing bump in the road just 59 days from his World Cup debut against Iran and led to some of the 4,415 traveling fans booing Southgate full-time.

“Look, it’s really hard to pin down why we’re not scoring because I think we’re getting into the right areas,” the England manager said.

“We had the moments that we would have had in the past. We just didn’t deliver that final piece of quality tonight.

“I understand the reaction at the end because those are the results we’ve had in this competition and, yes, it’s an understandable emotional reaction.”

England’s five-game winless run is the longest since 2014 and means they were relegated with Monday’s Nations League home game against Germany to spare.

“Well, it’s hard for me to be too critical of acting,” Southgate said. “We had more possession, more shots, more shots on goal. I think we played very well in big roles.

“We didn’t deal with the decisive moment defensively and we had moments where we had the opportunity to be more decisive in their final third and our quality was not adequate.

“It’s a spell where of course the results are ultimately going to be something everyone reacts to, but I thought there were a lot of positive signs for us as a team tonight.

“I think there were a lot of good individual performances. Personally, I thought acting is a step in the right direction.

“But I fully understand, because of the result, that will not be the external reaction.”

In truth, it was a lukewarm response from England to June and an alarming penultimate game before the World Cup given that the team looked toothless in attack and fragile at the back.

“We’ve said we’re not in an ideal situation in terms of the number of players regularly playing 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 lot of noise, of course, but that has been built up from the summer, actually, and I fully understand that.

Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane reflect on the defeat in Milan (Antonio Calanni/AP).

“The players in the dressing room know that this was a game they could have won and if they take their chances and defend the goal better then we win. They are fine margins.

“We are playing against some of the biggest soccer nations and fine margins are decisive.”

Italy will not be at the World Cup this winter and coach Roberto Mancini was pleased by his team’s victory on Friday night.

“We beat England, who are 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 stay on top, and we were very good in that sense. The victory was deserved.”

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