Nations League: Southgate seeks next step as England wins again on penalties

England beat Switzerland 6-5 on penalties after the match remained goalless following extra-time.

Gareth Southgate applauds the travelling English fans after his England team prevailed on penalties against Switzerland.   -  AP

England manager Gareth Southgate believes the bitter disappointment of losing a second semifinal in 12 months will be the fuel his side needs to take the next step at next year's European Championships.

After a 3-1 defeat to The Netherlands in the Nations League last-four on Thursday, Southgate's men claimed the consolation prize of third place by beating Switzerland 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw dominated by England in Guimaraes.

“I think for me the significant step is the level of disappointment that we haven't left here going to the final and winning the trophy,” said Southgate.

“There is a real determination for all of us that we recognise now you don't get many opportunities as an international team and we've got to make sure we really strive to take the next step over the next couple of years.”

Jordan Pickford was England's penalty hero once more as after years of disappointment in shootouts, Southgate's side has now won two in the past year after also edging past Colombia in the last-16 of last year's World Cup.

Pickford scored as England was flawless from the spot before saving from Josip Drmic to secure a 6-5 win in the shootout.

Read: Three Lions edges past Swiss on penalties

“I was a bit nervous taking my penalty but I'm not nervous saving them,” said Pickford. “We practice them consistently and I always pick my spot and always seem to score, but I had never taken one in a real game.”

After the disappointment of gifting the Dutch two goals in extra-time on Thursday, there were far more positives for Southgate despite England's profligacy in front of goal.

England hit the woodwork four times, while Callum Wilson had a late winner in normal time ruled out by VAR.

- Alexander-Arnold impresses -

Southgate made seven changes with six of those involved in last weekend's Champions League final returning.

Harry Kane was restored as captain and nearly made an impact inside two minutes, cheekily chipping Yann Sommer, but the Swiss goalkeeper just touched the ball onto the crossbar.

However, it was the inclusion of Trent Alexander-Arnold that made the biggest difference.

The Liverpool right-back showed why he may soon overtake Kyle Walker in Southgate's pecking order with a series of the inviting deliveries that have become his trademark at club level.

Raheem Sterling did not make a clean connection from Alexander-Arnold's first dangerous cross before Dele Alli met the second with a powerful header but could not keep his effort down.

England nearly got the helping hand they needed after half-time when Fabian Schaer turned Danny Rose's fine low cross off the inside of his own post.

Kane was eventually substituted having again struggled to make an impact in his third appearance since returning from a two-month injury layoff.

Wilson replaced the England skipper and thought he had won the game five minutes from time when he bundled home after Alli's header came back off the bar.

However, just as in the defeat to the Dutch, England saw a goal ruled out after a VAR review for a foul earlier in the move by Wilson.

England continued to dominate in extra-time, but still could not find a way past the exceptional Sommer.

Another wicked Alexander-Arnold cross picked out Alli and his header was saved at full stretch by the Borussia Monchengladbach 'keeper who then got back up to block Sterling's follow-up effort.

Sterling also hit the post from a free-kick in the second period of extra-time, but England finally got their reward in the shootout.

Harry Maguire, Ross Barkley, Jadon Sancho, Sterling, Pickford and Eric Dier all found the net before Pickford denied Drmic.

—Southgate bemused—

The England manager was bemused at being given medals for finishing third at the Nations League – but not at a presentation.

England beat Switzerland 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Guimaraes on Sunday, with Jordan Pickford decisively saving from Josip Drmic after having scored one of his own.

The Three Lions lost to Belgium in a third-place playoff at the World Cup last year, after which FIFA president Gianni Infantino awarded bronze medals to players and staff members.

Southgate was unsure why there was not a similar formal presentation at UEFA's inaugural tournament.

"I've not seen them yet, so it's quite ironic really that we've had to go through another third-fourth play-off and the one we win, we don't even get them in front of the fans!" Southgate told reporters of his side's medals. "So, it's just lobbed in there, lobbed to us. 

"I remember some of the guys who were at Liverpool that I played with said that [former manager] Joe Fagan used to throw the medals down the back of the bus in the following pre-season and say, 'Get on with it, and if you've played enough games, take one', and that probably would pretty much sum up where we'd be at with this.

"The only other medals I guess we've been involved with is the Tournoi [de France in 1997] in Glenn [Hoddle]'s time. So, it's nice that we've got some acknowledgement for what we've done over the last year. But, I think we'll all be parking it to one side and looking forward."

Individual mistakes cost England a place in the final, Netherlands running out 3-1 winner in the semis, and Southgate accepted his team will be disappointed not to end a major international silverware drought dating back to the 1966 World Cup.

"I think for me, the significant step is the level of disappointment that we haven't left here having gone to the final and won the trophy," he added. "And that took, I have to say, that took some lifting over the last couple of days for everybody, because none of us were satisfied.

"We think we played fine on Thursday but made ridiculous mistakes, so it was important that we responded today with a high level of performance. The players adapted really well, we changed the shape, and they carried that out really well and we should have won the game.

"We deserved to win the game with the opportunities we created and the number of times we hit the woodwork so the healthy thing for me was that: a good response, some really good discussions over the last couple of days about our dissatisfaction with only getting as far as we have, and a real determination for all of us that we recognise now that you don't get many opportunities as an international team and we need to make sure that we really strive to take the next step over the next couple of years."

Switzerland was indebted to goalkeeper Yann Sommer for a string of saves that took the game to penalties, while England hit the woodwork on three occasions and had a Callum Wilson goal ruled out after a VAR check, and coach Vladimir Petkovic accepted his side were made to work hard without the ball.

"It wasn't an easy game for us. It was a game where we started off well, had a few chances," Petkovic told reporters. "But England were better in the first half and all in all I'd say that we showed a solid performance.

"We faced a team that had greater possession and sometimes you just have to leave the ball to them. I need to congratulate England on that third place they achieved and maybe next time we will have to practice penalties a little more."

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