In a dramatic international break weekend, top seed Belgium ended England’s Nations League berth with a 2-0 win. With one round of games left, Belgium has a five-point lead over third-place England in the top tier’s Group 2 but has not yet secured qualification. Despite the exit, England boss “pleased with the progress” of his side ahead of the European Championships next year.
Southgate’s men reached the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League, but have now suffered back-to-back competitive defeats for the first time since September 2018. “Although we don’t like losing and didn’t want to go out of the competition, the level of performance was excellent,” said Southgate. “I have to focus on performances and if you get performances right, you will normally win matches.
During the intense matchup in an empty stadium due to the coronavirus restrictions, England had plenty of possession against the world’s top-ranked side but stunned two early goals in the opening 24 minutes. Southgate’s switch from a 4-3-3 formation that saw the England score 37 goals in eight games in qualifying for Euro 2020, to a 5-2-3 that has reaped just three goals in five Nations League games.
England were without the injured Raheem Sterling, giving Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish the opportunity to build on the fine early impression he has made at international level. Harry Kane, who made his 50th appearance for England, has also struggle to make an opening during the match. England have lost back-to-back competitive internationals for the first time since losing three in a row from July to Sept. 2018
“I’m really pleased with the progress. In the last two matches, I don’t think we’ve got what we deserved but those are the fine margins of knockout football.” Southgate added. England will join Croatia, Czech Republic and just recently Scotland, who have never reached any major tournament since 1998 World Cup, in Group D, set to played in Glasgow and London.
Last year, Southgate’s Three Lions celebrated their 1,000th game in style as they booked their place in Euro 2020, thrashingMontenegro 7-0 to top Group A. Captain Harry Kane moved to sixth in England’s list of leading scorers as a first-half hat-trick took his tally to 31, overhauling Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney.
Meanwhile, Denmark’s late winner over Iceland means Belgium still need a point when they host the 1992 Euro winner this weekto secure their place in the Nations League semi-finals in October 2021. Elsewhere, Italy is back in contention with the best in Europe, three years after an embarrassing failure to qualify for the World Cup, following a win against Poland 2-0.