Gareth Southgate, the England Head Coach, observed as his team clinched a rather unimpressive 2-0 win against Malta in their UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifier game at Wembley Stadium. Despite already securing a spot in the upcoming tournament in Germany, Southgate confessed that his team didn’t warrant much more than the victory.
During the initial half, Malta surprisingly had more attempts on goal compared to England, even though they were already trailing by a goal after Enrico Pepe unintentionally redirected Phil Foden’s cross into the net. Throughout the match, England struggled to generate many additional opportunities, only truly posing a threat to Malta’s goal in the last half hour.
In the 75th minute, Captain Harry Kane extended England’s lead, but a remarkable individual effort from Declan Rice was disallowed due to offside. Southgate acknowledged that his team was far from their peak performance, implying that it could have been a deliberate act of self-control from his players.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Southgate expressed, “If you don’t start matches strongly, it becomes extremely challenging to regain momentum, and unfortunately, we didn’t. We are well aware that our capabilities should be higher and have the potential to improve. In these matches that you know you can win comfortably, considering the number of games these players participate in, it becomes a form of self-regulation.” He carried on saying, “We didn’t reach the same level of success that we have attained this year. Our ball control lacked excellence and we were unable to generate sufficient opportunities. However, having been a player myself, I comprehend how these matches can be and it’s conceivable that we could have scored three or four goals if the calls were in our favor. Nevertheless, we didn’t generate enough evident opportunities to rightfully deserve that.” Kane, who was cautioned for simulation in the initial half, showed astonishment that the ruling was not reversed. He concurred with Southgate’s evaluation of the team’s performance, expressing, “It wasn’t our most outstanding display, so to speak, but occasionally you face a team that possesses more skill than people realize.”
“At the beginning of the match, we lacked the appropriate pace. We were careless and couldn’t quite construct. In the second half, we had more command and generated opportunities. However, all in all, it’s a 2-0 victory,” Kane supplemented. “I believe we are participating in numerous matches at the moment. We also have some injuries, and the substitutes need to deliver. Today, all the players weren’t performing at their usual level, but that’s the nature of football. We might have experienced some mental exhaustion. Currently, we are leading the group, and hopefully, we conclude with a triumph in our final match against North Macedonia.”