Southgate pleased with focus after Belarus delay

Friday 12 Jun 2015
Gareth Southgate chats to Steve Holland

Gareth Southgate saw his England Under-21s side finish their Euro preparations with a narrow 1-0 win against Belarus on Thursday.

It took an 83rd-minute goal from defender Ben Gibson to seal the victory at Oakwell, where kick-off had been delayed by over 30 minutes following the late arrival of the Belarusians.

But head coach Southgate admits he took that as a further test for his players and how they reacted to an unexpected disruption to their preparation.

England U21s 1-0 Belarus

Vauxhall International match
Thursday 11 June 2015
Oakwell, Barnsley

“I quite liked the fact that we had a delay, as it’s something that we had to deal with and were not expecting and that’s football,” he said.

“You’re going to get that in matches so it was good to see that we reacted well and we still started the game very well, the focus was good.

“I thought we did a lot of very good things, we moved the ball well and created a number of good chances, and we’ve now got this habit of scoring late goals which could be important.”

The win means England retain an impressive recent record as they go into next week’s Finals in Czech Republic.

But the goalscoring touch which had been so prevalent during qualifying and the subsequent games for Southgate’s team seemingly deserted them in front of an impressive crowd of over 15,000 at Oakwell. 

Danny Ings congratulates Ben Gibson

Danny Ings (left) congratulates goalscorer Ben Gibson

“Sometimes, you can be critical of the quality of play but I thought the quality of a lot of the play was really good and we were often just a couple of feet away from opening them up,” added Southgate.

“So you have to give them [Belarus] great credit for the way they defended and the way their keeper played, but there’s room for improvement.

“We can get sharper but I’m not only pleased with the approach tonight, but also the two weeks that we’ve had up until now.”

The Three Lions squad will now have a two-day break before they meet up again to fly out to the Euros on Sunday.

And once they are at their base in Olomouc, Southgate believes the real Euro fever will hit the players.

“I think everybody is ready for that now,” he admitted.

“There’s a bit of sparring with the warm-up games and there’s been important preparation done with the three group matches that we’ve got, even the two after Portugal.

“But we can really hone in on Portugal now, which is going to be a really good game of football and a difficult test, but we’re all looking forward to the challenge."

 


By Nicholas Veevers At Oakwell, Barnsley