Southgate tells England to ignore noise after limp World Cup stalemate
Al Khor, Qatar, Nov 25, 2022 (AFP) - Gareth Southgate urged England's players to block out the noise after they were booed off following a limp 0-0 draw against the United States in Friday's World Cup clash.
Southgate's side wasted a chance to book their place in the last 16 with a lethargic display that featured just one shot on target.
After thrashing Iran 6-2 in their Group B opener, this was a wake-up call for England, who were being hyped as potential world champions on the evidence of their first game.
England fans at the Al Bayt Stadium made their feelings known as a vociferous blast of jeers echoed around the stands at the final whistle.
But Southgate insisted his stars must ignore the criticism because he had no complaints about their performance.
"Were we booed off? I'm not sure if that was aimed at us. Personally, I'm really pleased with the application of the players against a really tough opponent," Southgate said.
"Of course I want our fans to go home happy and I want our fans at home to have a smile on their faces. We haven't managed to achieve that today. But I can't let that affect the team.
"We have to stay calm in these moments. We've been through tournaments before.
He added: "This is the tournament of external noise. There will be another layer of that I'm sure but we are on track. We can still win the group and that has got to be our target."
A point keeps England top of Group B and they will qualify for the last 16 as long as they avoid defeat by a four-goal margin to Wales on Tuesday.
Southgate admitted England lacked the verve and quality that blew away Iran, blaming their sluggish showing on an emotional comedown and a tenacious effort from the US.
"The players were very down and disappointed after the game but I told them that's not how it's going to be. They showed another side to their game and that will be important going forward," Southgate said.
"We were coming off the emotional high of the first game. To find that same energy was always going to be a challenge. The US front six make it so difficult to get at their defence.
"We lacked a bit of zip. We weren't able to create many chances. I'm sure there will be a lot of noise about the performance but not a lot of teams go through with nine points."
Southgate was criticised for opting to send on Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish as his attacking changes, with the Manchester City playmaker left on the bench.
Defending his decision, Southgate said: "Whichever one of our forwards I didn't put on if we didn't win the game I would be sitting here answering questions.
"We didn't think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he doesn't play there for his club.
"It was a game for experience in the middle. We love Phil, he is a super player."
Southgate also played down suggestions that Chelsea winger Raheem Sterling had stormed down the tunnel after being substituted following an anonymous performance.
"Raheem started refuelling straight away. He is one of the players on dope testing. I think he went to the bench first and then went in," Southgate said.
Meanwhile, England captain Harry Kane believes his side remain in a "great position" to reach the knockout stages.
"In the game against Iran we took our chances really well. Today we had two or three good opportunities and we didn't quite put it away," Kane told ITV.
"A draw isn't the end of the world for us, it puts us in a great position in the group and we look forward to the next one.
"After our first performance people thought we were just going to landslide every team we play, but it's not the case."
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