Southgate 'sets the bar high' for England Under-21s play-off

Friday 03 Oct 2014
Gareth Southgate and assistant coach Steve Holland
Gareth Southgate says the exposure to pressure his players are about to experience can only aid their development.

His England Under-21 side face Croatia in a two-legged play-off with the winners securing a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Czech Republic next summer.

After finishing top of their qualifying group with nine wins from ten games, Southgate’s team aren’t short of confidence but he is preparing them for a much bigger test against Croatia with the first leg taking place at Molineux on Friday 10 October.

England U21s v Croatia U21s

UEFA Euro U21 Championship
Play-off first leg
5.45pm, Friday 10 October 2014
Molineux, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Live on BT Sport
Call 0871 222 1877 for tickets


"I’m setting the bar high for them, it’s not enough for us to win, I want us to win by playing in a style that they can hopefully take with them to the seniors," said Southgate.

"These are the sorts of matches that these lads are going to face in the future, hopefully leading to another great experience in the summer.

"We won’t take it lightly, we’ve got a tough opponent and it should be a fantastic couple of matches so we’re really looking forward to playing at Molineux in the opening leg.

"It’s a place that I know bounces when the team are playing well and the supporters see football that they enjoy watching.

"With it being a Friday, we’re hoping people might be able to get away from work a bit earlier and the club and ourselves are doing everything we can to try and get the tickets sold.

"We want a healthy crowd on the night and that vocal support can take the players onto another level really and as a player, if you play in front of a crowd it can only improve your performance.

"I think the players will look forward to it, when we’ve travelled we maybe haven’t had big crowds but at home we’ve had great support and I think people have enjoyed watching us and the football that we’ve played."

Watch highlights of England's final group match in Moldova


Southgate’s side were dominant during their group stage, scoring goals and controlling games, which is the standard that he wants to keep for the play-offs.

That has been a message which both Southgate and assistant coach Steve Holland have been keen to portray to the players, through their training and meetings with the group.

And Southgate knows England will have to raise the bar again when they face a Croatian outfit who topped their own group ahead of the likes of Ukraine and Switzerland.

"We’ve set out from the start that we want to control matches with possession and that’s key," he revealed.

"The threat from Croatia is their ability to counter-attack and that’s something we’ve spoken about a lot in our last four or five games.

"Most of our matches have been against teams who defend deep and try to counter, so it’s a problem we’ve faced before but the quality of the opposition this time is a step-up.

"They have some individuals that can turn matches, but what I want us to do is to show people the type of football that we’ve played already and produce that when there’s a bit more scrutiny on us as a team."

Tickets for the game at Molineux next Friday cost just £10 for adults and £5 for U16s. You can purchase now by calling 0871 222 1872 or by clicking here.

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels