Gareth Southgate shields England players after tame draw with USA
- Team on verge of qualification after goalless match
- ‘People will react. I can’t let that affect the team’
Gareth Southgate called for calm and told his players to ignore the noise after England were booed off at the end of their stodgy 0-0 draw with the USA.
England remain top of Group B and will qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup if they avoid a heavy defeat against Wales on Tuesday. Yet they were subjected to jeers at the Al Bayt Stadium after following their 6-2 win over Iran with a lifeless attacking display against an impressive USA side and Gareth Southgate, who has faced heavy criticism in recent months, accepted that his job will be to shield his players from the outside noise.
“Of course I want our fans to go home happy,” England’s head coach said. “I want our fans at home to have a smile on their faces. We didn’t quite manage to achieve that tonight. But people are going to react how they’re going to react. I can’t let that affect how I feel about the team or how the team feels.
“The objective is to qualify. We have three games to do it. I would imagine most of the teams in the competition will take three games to do it. We have to stay calm in these tournaments. We’ve been through this before. I’m sure there will be a lot of noise; this is the tournament of external noise. But we’re on track. We have a bit to do. We can still improve. That’s going to be our target.”
The USA winger Christian Pulisic smiled when he heard about the boos from England’s fans. “I guess that’s a positive sign when you play for the other team,” Pulisic said. “There were stretches of the game where we had control and had them pushed back. Opposing fans don’t like to see that.”
England struggled to deal with the quality and energy of the USA midfield. But Southgate, who said he did not hear the reaction at full-time, was satisfied with how his side scrapped for a point.
“I’m really pleased with the application of the players against a tough opponent,” he said. “They defended incredibly well. To come off the high of that performance the other day and to find that same energy and level of quality was always going to be a challenge. Their front six made it so difficult to get into their defence and I actually thought we controlled the game really well. Our two centre-backs were absolutely outstanding.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of noise about that performance but not many teams go through a World Cup and get nine points in a group. We are in a good position. The players were very disappointed after the game but I told them that isn’t how it is going to be over the next few days. I thought they showed another side to what they are about, which will be important moving forward.”
Southgate, who said the humid conditions made it a tough physical challenge for his side, said there were no signs of Harry Kane struggling with the ankle injury he picked up against Iran. He also defended his decision not to introduce Phil Foden in the second half.
“I was tempted to bring him on but whichever one of our forwards I didn’t put on if we didn’t win the game I was going to be sitting here answering the question why I didn’t put them on,” Southgate said. “We wanted to change the wide areas and we didn’t think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he doesn’t play there for his club. We love Phil and think he is a super player.”