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England’s players are not fit enough to press with intensity, admits Southgate

England will look to give a better performance when they take on Slovenia on Tuesday

Gareth Southgate

Gareth Southgate has hinted England’s players are not fit enough to execute an effective pressing game.

The Three Lions’ lack of high-intensity pressing was noticeable during Thursday’s lacklustre 1-1 draw with Denmark – a result that all but guaranteed Southgate’s men passage into the knockout stages.

The performance left a lot to be desired, however, with Denmark’s players looking fresher on a heavy pitch in Frankfurt that left England looking laboured in comparison.

Captain Harry Kane – who bore the brunt of the post-match criticism – and Bukayo Saka, two of England’s front four, came into the tournament short on minutes due to injury and Southgate believes that is a factor in their inability to get after the opposition.

What did Southgate say?

He told The Guardian: “We are not pressing well enough, with enough ­intensity. 

“We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition. We can’t press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the ­qualifiers, for example. And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control.”

Even midfielder Declan Rice, one of England’s most energetic players, appeared ‘leggy’ against the Danes. Asked about Southgate’s comments regarding a lack of fitness, the Arsenal man was non-committal, saying: “It’s hard to say, really. 

“You only know yourself. Lads are never going to admit if they’re tired or not. As someone watching a game, you can tell if a player is tired or not. A player’s never going to admit that.”

England conclude their Group C fixtures against Slovenia on Tuesday as they bid to land their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

Winning the Euros is “bloody difficult”

Southgate suggested early issues were not unexpected and highlighted the size of the task ahead of his side, adding: “I am seeing every day that they are loving working together. I don’t think it is a lack of spark. 

“At the moment, they ironically care too much and they need firm leadership. We have to guide them through the difficult period that is coming but really stay on track and focused on this challenge ahead.

“We are trying to do something that has never been done before [win the Euros]. So that is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster. It’s not going to go smoothly when you are trying to achieve extraordinary things. They are bloody difficult. 

“We have to accept the level of expectations, we have to accept the arena we are in. And we have to find a better way of playing to how we have so far.”


Picture of Jon Fisher

Jon Fisher

Jon has over 20 years' experience in sports journalism having worked at the Press Association, Goal and Stats Perform, covering three World Cups, an Olympics and numerous other major sporting events.