England manager Gareth Southgate says his side's growing belief leaves him proud

Sunday 18 Nov 2018

England boss Gareth Southgate says his side’s growing belief gives him great hope for the future.

The Three Lions showed their patience and resolve to secure a dramatic victory over Croatia at Wembley, to seal a place in next summer’s Nations League Finals in Portugal.

England 2-1 Croatia
  • UEFA Nations League
  • Sunday 18 November
  • Wembley Stadium connected by EE
  • Live on Sky Sports

After falling behind against the run of play when Andrej Kramaric put the visitors ahead, Southgate’s team responded with goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane to ensure top spot in the group and relegation for Croatia.

"I'm very proud, first and foremost,” said Southgate.

"I thought we dictated a lot of the game and had good chances in the first half.

"Then we let quite a soft goal in and it’s a real test of resilience and patience. We rode our luck with their counter-attacks with one cleared off the line.

"And for all the great play, we scored from a long throw-in and set-piece. Maybe we're not a new England and we're the England we’ve always been.

"But the players are starting to believe in the system. We have some players so comfortable building from the back.

"I felt we were more in control in the first half than we were in the [World Cup] semi-final. We were much more controlled in possession.

"It felt as if we could open them up and make good chances.

Harry Kane's late goal sealed a 2-1 win over Croatia in the final game of 2018

"We felt the balance in the midfield was important. We knew if we had to accelerate, we had game-changers on the bench. In the last five minutes we were mature enough to see things through."

What has pleased Southgate most though, is the increasing bond between his players and the crowd.

With almost 80,000 fans cheering England on, the atmosphere in the second half helped push the team to victory and there were celebrations at full time to match.

"The biggest thing is the connection with the fans - I haven't seen the new Wembley like that," he added.

"The way it feels with the fans is special. It’s giving us the energy to try to go on and break new barriers all the time.

"We didn’t discuss relegation – we just saw this as an opportunity. We saw it as a quarter final.

"It’s great as we had to live with the pressure. If we can get an atmosphere like that we’ll be very strong.

"We’ve come out of an incredibly tough group, in terms of form and world rankings, the toughest.

"We haven’t sat back after the summer and preened ourselves. We’ve progressed. People can see the style and start to believe in what we’re doing.

"The depth in the squad since the summer has grown with the young players. Whoever comes in during this competition have all delivered.

"I’m proud of how we’ve done all year. I’ve not heard Wembley like that for a long time."

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By FA Staff