Southgate: U21s have 'set the standards high' after Guinea win

Monday 23 May 2016
Gareth Southgate

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate saw his side smash seven goals past Guinea to make it two out of two at the Toulon Tournament on Monday.

A first-half brace from Jack Grealish, a penalty from James Ward-Prowse and a stunning Nathan Redmond strike saw the Three Lions lead 4-1 at half time before a Cauley Woodrow double and an own goal completed the rout.

But it was the manner in which England fell behind to a shock goal after less than a minute of the game that was still on the head coach’s mind at full time.

England 7-1 Guinea

Toulon Tournament
Monday 23 May 2016
Stade de Lattre, Aubagne
Live on BT Sport

"We spoke before the game about any team being capable of scoring at any time and although Guinea haven’t shown much in their first two games, they’ve got good spirit," he revealed.

"They managed to score against Paraguay [in their first game] and we started in a really sloppy manner so that was disappointing.

"The response was good and we showed some composure to work our way back into it, but if we start games like that against better opposition then we’ll struggle to get back into it."

The early blow was quickly forgotten though, thanks to a fierce volley from Grealish, the Ward-Prowse spot-kick and Redmond’s screamer.

And Southgate was pleased to see his players connecting in the final third as they set their sights on top spot in Group B and a place in next Sunday’s Final.

"We have some exciting attacking players and we showed some good combinations and good finishing, and they’re an enjoyable group to work with," he added.

"I think it’s a case of pushing them as much as we can now and we’ve set the standards high.

"Tonight the goal difference will be really important.

"I’ve no concerns about our work with the ball in the two matches we’ve had and in the first game we defended really well as a team.

"But tonight we were loose out of possession and that’s the bit we’ve got to get right."

Another pleasing aspect for Southgate was the performance of the new faces in his squad, with four full debutants on show from the start in a line-up which showed nine changes from the win over Portugal last week.

With a game against Paraguay on Wednesday and then the final group match with Japan following quickly on Friday, it’s a hectic schedule for the group.

But Southgate believes management of minutes between the squad can ensure his team will be ready for the remaining challenges.

"I think today we had four full debuts in Angus Gunn, Jack Grealish, Matty Grimes and Rob Holding," he said. 

"So it was a big moment for all of them and I wanted players to play in a game that was important to our qualification.

"We needed a win tonight to give ourselves a chance of getting into the final and two games in, everyone has started now so that’s good for camaraderie of the group, which is strong anyway.

"But I think with everybody having contributed now, that will bring an additional togetherness and spirit.

"Up to this point, from a physical point, we’re really pleased with how we’ve been able to manage the games and we’ve now got some fresh players who can come into the game on Wednesday.

"That’s key and if we can win that game then we’re in a really strong position to be in the final."

By Nicholas Veevers in Aubagne, France