England again failed to hold onto a lead as they were pegged back late on in Poland with Gareth Southgate conceding they must again learn after letting an advantage go
Gareth Southgate admits England are still on a steep learning curve on their mission to join the world’s elite.
England boss Southgate led the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup semi final and they lost the Euros final in the summer after a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out.
They are now just 14 months away from the Qatar World Cup but are haunted by a familiar failing of not being able to hold onto a lead.
England have made great progress under Southgate, but they are still the nearly men having just failed to get over the line in the last two major tournaments.
England were pegged back in Poland as they surrendered a lead late on just as they did against Croatia in 2018 and Italy at Wembley in the summer.
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It is pretty clear that England are close to having a first choice XI in terms of starting line-up and arguably the team which played in Poland will be very close to who plays in Qatar.
Maybe Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden might have a say but now it is improving the mentality, game management and being ready for tournaments rather than having to make big changes to the team.
Southgate was castigated for not making any substitutions in Poland and his game management has been questioned after failing to react and change tactics in the big games.
But Southgate admits himself that, despite Qatar being just over a year away, there are still lessons to be learned and improvements to be made.
Southgate said: “I think, without doubt, we’ve learned from all of the setbacks that we’ve had over the four years of being in charge and tonight was a similar situation.
“What I would say is 14 months is a long time so although this team has looked settled from the summer and into this camp that can look very different in 14 months time.
“There are young players emerging, there are players who are in a rhythm at the moment. We’ll be playing in the middle of a season where injury…there’s only seven days between the last league game and the finals.
“So there’s a lot than can happen with the squad but first and foremost we’ve got to get next month right because given the points we dropped tonight we’re still not not assured of our place yet.”
Realistically England remain in complete control of Group I, they still have to play Andorra and San Marino again while they face second placed Albania at Wembley, having won away.
So their place is there to be booked but Southgate accepts that he might be there to shot at over things like his substitutions or tactical choices.
“Yeah, I 100 per-cent expect it all the time,” said Southgate. “People are more than entitled to look at performances or look at decision and pass comment.
“That’s absolutely fair in assessing games, that’s the life of all managers in high-profile jobs and you have to accept that as a manager at least.
“The players have done a fantastic job across the 10 days and the three matches, I think, the way that they’ve responded to the disappointment of the final, the way they have picked the baton up from that – a lot of the other teams in those latter stages haven’t done that.
“They’ve taken on two very difficult away games with no away supporters in, packed attendances and really controlled those games well so I couldn’t give them enough praise and credit for what they’ve done.”