World Cup 2022: England boss Gareth Southgate ‘happy’ but criticized for lack of creativity

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England boss Gareth Southgate hailed his side’s mentality in Friday’s goalless draw with the United States at the World Cup but was criticized for the “huge mistake” of letting Manchester City star Phil Foden on the bench.

Southgate said England remain in a “strong position” to reach the knockout stages despite a lackluster performance that saw the Three Lions produce their fewest shots on goal in a World Cup game in over 30 years.

England remain top of Group B and will advance to the knockout stage if they avoid a four-goal loss to Wales on Tuesday (1900 GMT).

“It’s a game you can lose if your mentality isn’t right,” Southgate said.

England’s game and performance stood in stark contrast to their England crush Iran 6-2 in the opening group match.

“To come back from such a comfortable win, it’s very difficult to get back to that kind of level,” Southgate told BBC Sport.

“The players are a bit behind but not me. I thought we were in control, our two centre-backs with the ball were outstanding. We lacked a bit of momentum in the final third tonight.”

England managed just eight shots, attempting fewer against the Republic of Ireland in 1990, when they netted six, and seven against Poland in 1986.

After Mason Mount’s shot from distance just before the break, they posed virtually no threat in the second half, with no attempts recorded in 40 minutes.

“I’m not frustrated. We had to show a different side of ourselves tonight and I’m actually happy with the mentality of the team,” Southgate said.

“The goal is always to get out of the group and we’ve done that in two games in the last two tournaments – we can’t expect to do that all the time.”

Southgate removed Bellingham, Saka and Sterling for Grealish, Rashford and Henderson

Where was the “super” Foden?

Southgate opted for the same starting line-up that beat Iran on Monday and when they needed a creative spark, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford called in late in the game, leaving Foden on the bench.

Former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards, who was part of BBC Radio 5 Live’s World Cup coverage, said: “We’re talking about creativity, who’s the first player that comes to my mind. the mind? It’s Foden.

“Mount didn’t have their best game and I don’t want to blame them, but it was a game where we couldn’t start the rotations and get the passes fast enough and we had one of our best talented players. on the bench. I couldn’t understand it.

Despite his impressive performance in the Premier League, where he scored seven goals and provided three assists, Foden only appeared as a substitute for 20 minutes in the game against Iran.

“He’s not about a difference maker, but how many times do we see him, week in and week out, getting into those little pockets and making something out of nothing,” Richards added.

“For him not to come on the pitch was a huge mistake.”

Southgate has defended his decision to bring in Grealish and Rashford, saying he believes their “different attributes” will get England through.

“They couldn’t find that missing spark, but we know Phil is a great player and if we didn’t score we were going to be asked which one we didn’t put in.”

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green said it appears Southgate “doesn’t consider” Foden in anything other than a wide position.

“It was the direct choice. Is it Rashford or Foden? Is it Grealish or Foden? No, can I stick it where Mount is [centrally]?’ It’s just not a consideration on this side,” Green said.

Southgate also swapped Jude Bellingham, who was quiet compared to his standout performance on Monday, for the more experienced Jordan Henderson.

Richards added: “Henderson’s change was about craftsmanship. You can bring him in and you don’t mind because we were overwhelmed in midfield.

“If you’re going to make that change, great, but you can bring Foden along. You have the stability of Henderson but you have the attacking talent of Foden who can get on the ball and make a difference.

“Grealish came in and he made the difference. He wasn’t amazing but he gave them a different dimension and that’s what England needed.

Performances “millions of miles apart”

England remain on track to reach the last 16, but the performance stands in stark contrast to the emphatic victory over Iran.

“It was a really disappointing performance,” Green said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“England had the attacking flair in the first game and the defensive solidity in the second game and if you put them together it’s a good performance, but they felt a million miles away from the other.”

Southgate’s tactic saw his side reach a World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final during his tenure, but England’s failure to find a solution in the future could be a concern for the fans.

The England manager added: “The inability to open them up is because they defended very well. They had 11 men who worked hard to protect the goal and when we had those little opening windows we didn’t produce quite the good quality to open them.

“We are playing in conditions that put a lot of strain on the players and keeping up the pace is not easy.”

England defender Kieran Trippier told BBC Radio 5 Live: “You have to be proud of clean sheets and tournament football, we know that’s very important.

“It’s a big point in our group. Both teams tried to win the game and both had chances and I think a point is a fair result. Now we just have to recover and review the game and fully focus on the next battle against Wales. .”

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