Gareth Southgate sees ‘improvement’ as England reach Euro 2024 knockout stages

Gareth Southgate urged patience after England nudged into the knockout stages of Euro 2024 with a goalless draw against Slovenia in Cologne.

Despite failing to fully impress once again, another blank between Denmark and Serbia in Munich meant Southgate’s men finished on top of Group C with five points from three games.

“I don’t think we were going to go from where we were to winning three or four nil – it’s not realistic in the intensity of the game,” Southgate told ITV.

Kobbie Mainoo
Gareth Southgate hailed the impact of Kobbie Mainoo (centre)

“But there were a lot of things we were very pleased with. We have to take one step at a time. Tonight was an improvement and we’ve got to improve to win in the next round clearly.”

Southgate singled out Kobbie Mainoo and Cole Palmer for particular praise after the pair came off the bench late in the game and injected new life into the England front line.

““They (Mainoo and Palmer) are really young players so we’re balancing blooding them in a different environment, but they had a really good impact when they came on and used the ball really well,” Southgate added.

Cole Palmer
Cole Palmer was another England substitute to emerge with credit (Martin Rickett/PA)

Overall, Southgate insisted the performance was an improvement on both the gruelling opening win over Serbia, and the subsequent draw with Denmark that drew heavy criticism from some quarters.

“I understand some of the reactions but it’s strange environment we’re playing in,” added Southgate.

“I thought we were much improved with the ball, we’ve created some good openings and at the moment it’s hard work for us because we’re not quite getting that break in front of goal.

“So many things are staring to come together. We had a lot of issues coming into the tournament and today we looked more dangerous, we had a good impact from our substitutes, and we’ve got just now to convert our chances.”

England v Slovenia – UEFA Euro 2024 – Group C – Cologne Stadium
John Stones insisted England’s initial objective has been achieved (Martin Rickett/PA)

England defender John Stones echoed Southgate’s sentiments and stressed his side had reached their initial target coming into the tournament.

“Our objective was to top the group and we’ve done that,” Stones told ITV.

“It’s not always going to be an easy road. Two clean sheets is very positive for us to take away to the next stage and a lot of improvement from the other two games.

“I believe it’s another step in the right direction. I can understand some of the fans’ frustration with us not scoring or taking chances, but that’s football, and we left everything out there.”