Being close makes England losses hurt more for Southgate

Gareth Southgate does not want England's progress of the past year to be forgotten as it rounds off its Nations League campaign.

England has followed the World Cup semifinal defeat with a Nations League semifinal exit.   -  Getty Images

England will leave Portugal with a sense of disappointment following its second tournament near miss in as many years, says manager Gareth Southgate.

The Three Lions takes on Switzerland in Sunday's Nations League third-place match, returning to the Estadio D. Afonso Henrique in Guimaraes, where it was beaten 3-1 in extra time by Netherlands on Thursday.

Errors from John Stones and Ross Barkley leading to Dutch goals in the additional period made the loss a tough one to take for Southgate and his team, a year on from the World Cup semifinal reverse against Croatia.

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"We're at the stage now where we know as a team we're close to getting into finals and the opportunities to win trophies," the England boss told a pre-match news conference.

"Everyone is disappointed throughout the camp but what has been encouraging is the players are highly motivated about how we've got to be spot on going forward. I've seen some positive signs in that response but of course we're unhappy.

"We're steps beyond where we've been for the last 15 or 20 years but we're not happy with that. Whatever happens tomorrow we will leave here with a sense of disappointment."

Southgate rejected suggestions that there were a worrying number of parallels between the Netherlands loss and the Croatia defeat after England again lost a lead and appeared to cede control of midfield to a technically savvier team.

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"I think It's a different game to the semi-final. We had a period at the start where we weren't able to play though their press as well as we should but then we had a period where we did that well," he added.

"The start of the second half we were on top and then they were on top. They had a lot of possession without creating. All their chances came from our possession."

England will remain committed to its style of building play from the back despite Stones and Barkley erring – something its manager made light of.

"Last year we got it tactically wrong," Southgate said. "We stopped trying to play out. We certainly didn't stop trying to play out the other night. Whether we did it well is another matter."

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Ben Chilwell and Jordan Henderson are doubts for the Switzerland match, along with Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, who was substituted at half-time in midweek following a robust tackle from Denzel Dumfries.

"I don't think it'll be a long-term thing," Southgate said of Rashford. "We just had a 48-hour turnaround for this game so it's hard to get anyone back from any injury at all. I don't think it's a significant one."

'I'm glad they are booing the opposition!'

Southgate joked he is glad England's supporters were booing opposition players rather than their own after Virgil van Dijk was jeered during the Nations League semifinal.

The Netherlands centre-back was targeted by England's travelling fans every time he touched the ball in Thursday's match in Guimaraes.

But rather than join any condemnation of his side's supporters, Southgate feels it can be considered a positive that opposition players are being singled out instead of his own men, as was the case during a World Cup qualifier in Malta in 2017.

"I'm happier they're booing the opposition now than when they booed our players when we started," he said ahead of Sunday's third-place play-off against Switzerland. "We're making progress. Driving through the streets of Malta... if Virgil has to take a bit, fair enough."

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