Gareth Southgate reacts to England's humiliating 4-0 defeat against Hungary
Gareth Southgate has taken responsibility for England’s humbling 4-0 defeat to Hungary in the UEFA Nations League on Tuesday night and has urged supporters to stand by the team.
The Three Lions went behind after just 16 minutes following some poor set-piece defending, with Roland Sallai firing past Aaron Ramsdale, and the home side offered little threat of levelling the scores in a subdued and lethargic display.
With England struggling to find any cohesion, Hungary deservedly doubled their lead in the 70th minute through Sallai again – who had only netted four times in the Bundesliga in the entirety of last season – before the flood gates opened.
More lacklustre defending saw the ball laid back to Zsolt Nagy, who fired in a powerful, fizzing effort from the edge of the box, before John Stones was sent off for an incredibly soft second yellow card.
The embarrassment did not end there for England, though, with Daniel Gazdag darting in behind in the 89th minute to dink the ball over Ramsdale to inflict the heaviest home defeat on the Three Lions since a 5-1 loss to Scotland in 1928.
England have now failed to win their last four matches – their worst run since Roy Hodgson was in charge – and are approaching seven hours without a goal from open play, while they also risk getting relegated in the Nations League after collecting just two points so far.
Fans booed England off the pitch and there were chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at full-time, but Southgate has defended his players and is adamant he is still the right man to lead England at the World Cup.
He told Channel 4: ‘I understand the reaction in the stadium, what I would say is that this group of players have been unbelievable for the country and it’s important that people stay with them because they’re still going to be very strong going forward.’
Asked if he understands the reaction in the stadium, Southgate continued: ‘Yeah of course, look, in the end, this is about winning matches with England.
‘Tonight was the sort of night that a lot of my predecessors have experienced and it’s difficult to stand there. I’m not going to say it doesn’t hurt but it’s very clear to me what we were trying to do across these four matches and the irony is that the two Nations League campaigns have been the ones that have heaped negativity and pressure on to us and you wouldn’t normally have that as an England manager.
‘I’ve got to go with that, it’s my job to protect the players, they’ve been exceptional in their attitude, and the results are my responsibility.’
Skipper Harry Kane gave a blunt response when asked if he still has confidence in Southgate ahead of the World Cup, saying: ‘Without any question. It’s not even a question I should be answering, if I’m honest.’
Offering an explanation as to why England struggled so much against Hungary, Southgate said: ‘Well we picked a young team, with energy, and when the game started to go against them it started to look that way. That’s my responsibility in the end.
‘I felt at half-time we needed to go for the game, we made changes that gave us a little bit more of an attacking impetus but then we were a little bit more open as well and at the end we were pushing, but we had so many attacking players on the pitch that we left ourselves wide open.
‘I’ve just said to the players there [in the dressing room] that across the four matches it’s my responsibility, I tried to balance looking at new players, tried to rest players that we couldn’t keep flogging, but in the end the teams I’ve selected haven’t been strong enough to get the results in the two Hungary games.
‘I think the other two performances [against Germany and Italy] have been more positive than perhaps the reaction to it, but I totally understand that tonight is a chastening experience.’
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