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Gareth Southgate cites ‘total control’ of Poland for stubborn England tactics

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2021-09-08
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Gareth Southgate defended his decision not to make any substitutions after England conceded a last-minute equaliser in their World Cup qualifier against Poland on Wednesday night.

England looked poised to take another big stride towards Qatar after going 1-0 up thanks to Harry Kane, but they still have work to do after a feisty evening in Warsaw ended in frustration. Poland were jubilant after Damian Szymanski maintained their qualification hopes with a stoppage‑time header and Southgate was left to face questions over his reluctance to freshen up his side by making changes during the dying stages.

“We were in total control of the game and to bring players into that moment when everyone was performing to a good level and we were in control of possession, you can put players into the game who’ve had to sit in the stand and it’s not so easy to come in in those latter stages,” the England manager said.

“There were a couple of moments we looked at it and said: ‘No, we’re doing well, no problem.’ We were going to refresh the wide players right at the end but that would’ve been to wind the clock down more than anything, but before we could get them in we conceded and it wasn’t a good time to make a change.”

Southgate was unable to shed any light on the row that led to England’s Harry Maguire and the Poland centre‑back, Kamil Glik, both picking up yellow cards after the half-time whistle. There was surprise that the VAR did not get involved when Glik appeared to pinch Kyle Walker’s neck. England reported the incident to the match delegates and the FA said it is up to Fifa to investigate.

England remain top of Group I despite Szymanski’s goal ending their perfect record in qualifying. They are four points above Albania, but Southgate was disappointed at the late slip. “We knew that, if we could win, then we were pretty much in Qatar,” he said. “We could’ve been in an even stronger position, so that is a disappointment.”

The England coach also hinted at frustration with some of the officiating. “I don’t know what the tally was but I thought the three forwards for us were fouled a lot,” he said.

“Sometimes when you give an early yellow card, that means that the defender can’t make further challenges, or the next one’s a red, and both of those things might have been possible. I was a bit surprised at times but it’s gone.”

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