England in the Nations League: A relegation with honor – Sport


Nothing knocks Gareth Southgate down that easily. As if to prove his own steadfastness, England’s national coach kept his composure at all times in the last group game of this Nations League round against Germany. Southgate was neither saddened to death after the interim 0: 2 nor was he overjoyed after the 3: 2 – in contrast to his fickle compatriots at Wembley Stadium, who after the late German equalizer no longer knew how to make it 3: 3 should classify. The newspaper TheTelegraph summed up the state of mind in typically British hyperbole: “Ecstasy… and agony!”

There is little that Southgate, 52, has done more than perhaps practice penalties in his six-year tenure than emancipating his side from the fickle whims of a nation that seems to know nowhere between pride and humility.

Because as a reason for that England Since the home win at the 1966 World Cup, Southgate analyzed the lack of team spirit, leadership, discipline and stability when he joined. He has been honing these virtues ever since. The result could be admired on Monday – at exactly the right time, eight weeks before the start of the World Cup in Qatar: His team has quite a lot gritas it is called in English, in German: Schneid.

The fans whistle, the leading media are working on Southgate: He has “never been a good coach”, says the “Times”

Without this strength of character it would probably not have been possible to fight back against the Germans in the acid test. Especially not from the point of view of how the English fans and media have dealt with the coach and some professionals in the previous weeks. As a reminder: After 22 competitive games without defeat in regular time, England recently suffered a well-founded setback in the form of six games without a win (including three draws against Germany and Italy), which were mainly due to blatant personnel concerns. Despite this, fans booed Southgate and called for his dismissal. The leading media also worked on him: The BBC called the descent of the English into the B class Nations League “shameful”, the Times thought Southgate had “never been a good coach”. His coaching lacks “determination” and he risks wasting a “good generation of players”. Seriously?

England in the Nations League: So what are we going to do with this strange evening?  The national coaches Hansi Flick and Gareth Southgate (from left) do their best after Wembley's 3: 3 - and smile bravely.

And what are we going to do with this strange evening? The national coaches Hansi Flick and Gareth Southgate (from left) do their best after Wembley’s 3: 3 – and smile bravely.

(Photo: Paul Chesterton/Imago)

Seriously, after the dismissal of the coaching flop Sam Allardyce, which lasted only 67 days, England’s national team was on the ground in autumn 2016 (keyword humility!). Since then, Southgate has gradually helped the motherland of football to flourish. In 2021 he led England to their first EURO final, which they lost to Italy on penalties but rightly caused a frenzy in the country. However, the public did not seem to be able to deal with this sense of achievement. Instead of gratitude, the exaggerated sense of entitlement was suddenly back (arrogance!). This became clear in the duel with archrival Germany, when England scored a hat-trick within twelve minutes through Luke Shaw (71′), Mason Mount (75′) and Harry Kane (83′, penalty). The fans hugged each other, the beer splashed through the air, there was a folk festival atmosphere like at the EM a year ago.

The critics now use this game sequence as evidence that Southgate should only let his eleven storm forward. From their point of view, England have a highly gifted attacking line that would hooray always score a goal more than the shaky defense could allow. Southgate – who always failed as a national player with even more renowned teammates due to internal arrogance within the team – considers the argument to be too short-sighted. His experience has taught him: With hara-kiri tactics, a deficit can sometimes be turned around or a game won. But definitely not a tournament.

For this reason, Southgate also resisted media pressure to throw his principles overboard against Germany: he stuck to his three-man defence, trusted warhorses like Harry Maguire, dispensed with the forward-focused Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and left out act on an orderly defense. This initially resulted in a decent counter-football. Later, when England fell behind after a penalty owed by Maguire, he intensified the attacking effort with the substitution of goalscorer Mount. The game would have put Southgate in a good position to take a stand against the excessive coverage afterwards. Instead, he said his players were “fantastic”, took “individual and collective responsibility” – and “all this experience” (of the previous days) made the team grow.

Since the World Cup is “putting pressure” on anyway, Southgate added it was “better” to have felt it now. This is probably his most important finding – and that he has built a team that isn’t knocked over as easily as he is.



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