England boss Gareth Southgate defends four players despite ‘disappointing’ Hungary draw

England 1-1 Hungary: John Cross reaction

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Gareth Southgate has jumped to the defence of four of his players despite branding England’s 1-1 draw with Hungary ‘disappointing’. The Three Lions stumbled in their quest to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

England fell behind at Wembley Stadium and struggled to mount a serious comeback.

Luke Shaw’s sloppy challenge led to a Hungary penalty, from which Roland Sallai opened the scoring on 24 minutes. 

John Stones equalised 12 minutes later but Southgate’s side barely threatened a winning goal. 

The England head coach experimented slightly with his line-up. He used a 4-3-3 with Declan Rice as the only holding midfielder. 

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It is a change from the 3-4-3 system that has been used for most of the past year and worked so successfully for the majority of Euro 2020. 

Mason Mount and Phil Foden played just ahead of Rice. Foden was given another chance to stake a claim to become an England regular after an excellent performance against Andorra on Saturday. 

“We’re going to go away and reflect on the game. We shouldn’t just judge things on one game, in terms of that sort of experiment,” was Southgate’s verdict when asked by ITV about the performance of Mount and Foden. 

“Right across the board we were not sharp in our play. We gave the ball away and we were overunning things. 

“We were underneath [the standard] this time but we have to hold our hands up.”

Southgate also started with Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane despite the pair having struggled at club level since the start of the Premier League season.

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Manchester City forward Sterling has started just two league matches and has scored only one goal. The 26-year-old underwhelmed last term, too, scoring 10 times. He netted 20 in the campaign prior. 

Kane has appeared distracted by rumours linking him from Tottenham to City. The Three Lions captain has failed to register a Premier League goal this season. 

But, like Mount and Foden, Southgate was quick to defend two players who were key for England at Euro 2020.

Sterling and Kane netted a combined seven goals en route to finishing runners-up at the summer’s tournament. 

“I don’t think we should look too much at individuals. I think collectively we didn’t perform at the level we needed to,” Southgate said. 

“When you have that sort of situation, it’s difficult for individuals as well.’

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