‘We left everything out there’, says England manager Southgate

England head coach Gareth Southgate, comforts his players after their World Cup exit. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2018
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‘We left everything out there’, says England manager Southgate

  • England rue the fact they did not cash in on first-half dominance
  • 'We have to be proud of what we’ve achieved.'

MOSCOW: Manager Gareth Southgate said England “left everything out there” after falling to an extra-time defeat by Croatia in the World Cup semifinal on Wednesday.
England were hoping to reach a first World Cup final since 1966, but let an early lead slip to lose 2-1.
“I think in the first half we were really good and maybe we could have got another goal,” Southgate told ITV.
“I can’t ask for more from the players. I think knockout football is about fine margins and when you have good spells against fine sides you need to take your chances.
“Tonight we weren’t quite there but we will learn from that. We left everything out there.”
Southgate said the players were deeply disappointed, but that his young team could achieve great things in the years to come, with the European Championship just two years away.
“It’s impossible to say anything to make the players feel better at this moment in time,” he said.
“We have to be proud of what we’ve achieved. I don’t think anyone could have given any more.
“Players had run out of steam but that’s partly their age — they’re still physically maturing. Croatia have hardened warriors whose understanding of big matches at times came to the fore.
“The players have to go through big matches and experiences to become a team that can win. They have to use this experience for benefit and I know that what’s happened over the last few weeks will make them a stronger team.”


Harry Kane looks set to claim the Golden Boot as the World Cup’s leading scorer, but the Tottenham star rarely looked like adding to his six goals against Croatia.
“I think he’s given absolutely everything for the team,” Southgate said of the 24-year-old England captain.
“I think now is the time for us to be strong as a group and take the time to reflect on the performance a little bit over the next couple of days.
“He’s captained the team brilliantly over the tournament and I can’t ask for more from him.”
It was England’s best performance at a major tournament since Southgate was part of the team that reached the semifinals at Euro ‘96.
England arrived at this World Cup with the least experienced squad in terms of caps, but Southgate said the agony of losing was just as strong despite surpassing limited expectations.
“We all feel the pain of the defeat. Did we expect to be in this position? I don’t think realistically any of us did,” he said.
“But when you’ve got to this point, and we’ve played as well as we have, you want to take those opportunities in life.”
“There will in time be a lot of positives to take,” he added. “It’s very hard to put that into context and a bit too soon really, because I think you have to suffer the result a little bit. It’s too easy to move on quickly.”
England will return to their Repino base near Saint Petersburg ahead of Saturday’s third place play-off against Belgium, a repeat of their final group match.
“The honest thing is it’s not a game any team wants to play,” Southgate admitted. “We have two days to prepare and we’ll want to give a performance of huge pride.
“Of course it’s going to be a really difficult task over the next 24 hours to get everyone mentally back to where we want them for a game like that. That will be the challenge.”


High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

Updated 16 January 2019
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High-flying Saudi Arabia set sights on silverware ahead of Qatar clash

  • Green Falcons on a high as they aim to top group with victory over Qataris.
  • Winner of Group E will face Iraq in second round.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia only have one thing on their minds — lifting the trophy on Feb. 1 in Abu Dhabi.
The Green Falcons face Qatar in the UAE capital today with both sides having already confirmed their places in the second round. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s players have been impressive so far thanks to a 4-0 victory against North Korea, followed by a relatively simple 2-0 win over Lebanon.
That fine form has Fahad Al-Muwallad dreaming of the Green Falcons going all the way.
“As a player I have followed many matches in this Asian Cup and all the teams have ambitions to reach the final and win the title. We promise that within our team that our ambition is the highest among all,” the forward said.
“We only play to win the title, nothing less, regardless of who we play.”
Having started so well such confidence is understandable, not least because in their last tournament, the World Cup, the team lost 5-0 and 1-0 — to Russia and Uruguay, respectively — in their opening two clashes.
Added to that is the fact that of the favorites only Iran appeared to be on top of their game, while the likes of South Korea and Japan looked to be stuck in second gear.

Juan Antonio Pizzi is looking for victory over Qatar in a build to maintain the momentum the Green Falcons have built up during wins over North Korea and Lebanon. (AFP)


But anyone thinking Saudi Arabia are getting ahead of themselves have been told to think again. While the Green Falcons are confident and seeking to ramp up their title challenge in the knockout stages, they are aware they must win today to top Group E.
“Our qualification does not mean that we will underestimate the importance of tomorrow’s match,” Al-Muwallad said.
“We will try to play every game as hard as we can.”
That is the message being delivered by Pizzi. Having seen his team get off to such a great, positive start, the manager is keen not to lose any momentum ahead of the second round.
“What matters in such tournaments is achieving good results, which we were able to do in the first two matches against Lebanon and North Korea,” he said.
“We hope to fulfill the aspirations of Saudi football fans who watch each and every match, and we intend to play with the same importance.”
Should the Green Falcons continue their good form and beat Qatar — who have looked equally as impressive in their 2-0 win over Lebanon and 6-0 hammering of North Korea — they will top the group and face Iraq next Tuesday.
“Qatar is a team with many qualities and they have good strikers. However, we are also doing well collectively and I have full confidence that my players can get the three points,” the former Spain international said.
“We will try to do our best to win (against Qatar), even if we have qualified to the knockout rounds, our strategy to win the game will not change.”
Pizzi’s opposite number Felix Sanchez was equally adamant that his side would not play for a draw — their better goal difference would secure them top spot, however — and would aim for a win.
“We are doing exactly the same as we have for the other games, but we know it is a match which will decide top spot,” the Spaniard said.
“We will plan well, as we did for the other matches. The focus now is on Saudi Arabia and we must plan for a good game.”