England boss Gareth Southgate sits down to look back at 2019 for the Three Lions

As the end of 2019 approaches, we met up with the gaffer Gareth Southgate to assess the last 12 months for the Three Lions from his perspective…

Friday 13 Dec 2019
England manager Gareth Southgate has been looking back at the year 2019 for the Three Lions
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Gareth, at the start of the year, what were your expectations going into the new Euro Qualifying campaign?

Of course, at the start of the year we were also partly preparing for the Nations League as well so we had a bit of everything in there. But we knew there were some young players that we wanted to start blooding into the team - or some more young players anyway. Our objective is always to keep improving and developing the team while winning matches. We felt it was a qualifying group that we should win, but we didn't really know the exact level of the opponent. We didn't probably expect to score the number of goals that we did through the year, that's for sure.

Indeed. We scored 37 goals in qualifying and the players set the tone right from the off. How pleased have you been with the attacking prowess of your side this year?

I think the best comparison is the World Cup qualifying campaign where we played a lot of similar level teams and really struggled to break them down. We've had time now to develop a style of play and attacking patterns which, against that level of opposition, have proved to be devastating. Add in to that, we've got some very good players and some who are growing in confidence and have the belief they’re going to score when they’re playing for England. I think those combined have highlighted a high level of performance. We haven't had the defensive tests, other than in the Nations League games that we were expecting and that we need, but I don't think anybody can criticise the attacking play. We know we'll have better defences to break down next year but you can only beat what's in front of you, and goals per game, we've been the top scorers in Europe.

 

Just how important were those two games, Czech Republic and Montenegro, to start the year especially with a big win away from home?

We felt that we needed to get an away win. Montenegro has been a tricky fixture for England down the years. We’ve had two draws there in the past, so that was important for us. Having gone a goal behind, we felt that was a good sign as well. Then we had the summer with no Qualifiers and other teams would be racking up points, which can add pressure if you start falling four or six points off the lead. So it was important to get off to a good start and the players did really well in those two matches.

Watch the full video with Gareth in the media player above, featuring his thoughts on the Nations League, EURO 2020 qualification and some setbacks along the way.

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England are back in action in 2020 when they play Italy and Denmark at Wembley in March, and you can be there as the Three Lions kick-off their preparations for UEFA EURO 2020 next summer.

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By Nicholas Veevers