Gareth Southgate spoke of his pride at the way his England side played their way into next summer’s Euro Finals in Czech Republic.
And it was the way in which his team approached and executed their style of play in both ties which brought a smile to Southgate’s face after the game.
Croatia 1-2 England
(England win 4-2 on aggregate)
European U21s Championship Qualification play-off
Stadion HNK Cibalia, Vinkovci
Tuesday 14 October 2014
“I’m most pleased with the manner in which we played,” he revealed.
“We’ve been playing that way since the start, but we were really conscious that if we wanted to get our message across, we had to do it tonight, under pressure.
“It was clear from the beginning that if we got the ball into midfield our movement, touch and awareness was going to cause a problem.
He said: “We were in control of the game and we didn’t want to come here and sit back.
“We enforced that message because we could have sat off and defended but that’s not the way we are set up as a team.
“We played to our strengths and that’s how we’ve built the team – on possession.
“I want to show that England teams can play in a different way and for everything that we’re trying to do throughout the age groups, it was important that we qualified.”
The victory means England will join seven other nations in Czech Republic next June and become the first nation in UEFA's history to reach five successive Finals in this competition.
And Southgate feels it is fully deserved for his players, including those who have been involved throughout qualifying so far.
“There are so many players who have played a part in getting us to the Finals and every challenge that we’ve put in front of them they’ve risen to,” he added.
“You could write a team-sheet out with three or four illustrious names who weren’t involved this week, but the players who played tonight were outstanding and that’s what I said to them after the game.
“I’m very proud of the group of players and the group of staff who now have the Finals to look forward to next summer”
“I’m very proud of the group of players and the group of staff who now have the Finals to look forward to next summer.
“It’s a great credit to Stuart [former Under-21s head coach Pearce] for qualifying for four Finals and it put a bit of pressure on for tonight after all of the good things that we’ve done.
“We had to get to the Finals to test ourselves and we’re effectively now in the quarter final stage and it shows that we have got some quality players and depth of talent.”
Southgate and his staff will now start planning for the Finals, with more games to be scheduled in next month and then in the new year.
“We just want to enjoy what we’ve done, not just tonight, but over the last 12 months and the planning really starts now,” said the former Middlesbrough boss.
“We believe in them and give them the opportunities, so what we’re going to do now is test themselves against top quality opposition so we’re as prepared as we can be.”