The Three Lions had enjoyed the better of the chances in Sunday’s play-off and were enjoying their best spell of the game when a defensive clearance from Liam Moore ricocheted perfectly off Saido Berahino for Portuguese forward Ricardo Horta to win the game for his side.
Portugal 1-0 England
The Toulon Tournament
Third-fourth place play-off
3pm, Sunday 1 June 2014
Parc des Sports, Avignon
Live on BT Sport
And the Under-21s head coach believes that goal summed up his side’s fortunes in the Tournament, where England have played five games over the last ten days.
"I feel for the players today, they didn’t get what they deserved," said Southgate after the game.
"Not just for what they’ve given today but throughout the whole fortnight that we’ve been together.
"We more than held our own in the first half when Portugal perhaps slightly edged it.
"But in the second half, it was as well as we have played in the entire tournament and I can’t criticise the players for what they’ve done and what they’ve given.
"It’s the manner of the goals conceded that have cost us throughout the whole tournament.
"We’ve hardly conceded shots on goal and generally we’ve defended well, but we’ve had bits of fortune go against us and mistakes that have cost us goals – that’s the ruthlessness at this end of the game.
"Teams only need one half-chance and it’s in the back of your net and then it’s very difficult to create too many against them.
"Ironically, our best period of the game ended with them scoring and games are won and lost in the two penalty boxes, it’s as simple as that."
It brings to an end an otherwise successful first season in charge for Southgate, with news later filtering through to the camp that Finland’s victory over Moldova in their Euro qualifying group assures them of top spot and a play-off place in October.
And following a summer break for all concerned, the Under-21s will be back in action in September with their final two qualifiers in Lithuania and Moldova.
"Four of our five games here have been more difficult test than in our group with the Under-21s and that’s what we needed," added the former England defender
"We needed to see if we could play under that sort of pressure and today, I thought we showed that we can and that gives me a lot of hope for the future."