Southgate provides worrying update on why England are not playing ‘with enough intensity’

Joe Williams
England boss Gareth Southgate and Jude Bellingham
Gareth Southgate speaks to Jude Bellingham after the Denmark match.

Gareth Southgate has suggested that the England squad’s “physical condition” is stopping them from pressing the opposition at Euro 2024.

The Three Lions put in a woeful display against Denmark on Thursday night but remained in control of Group C as they are still the only team to have won a game out of the four teams.

England just need to avoid defeat to Slovenia on Tuesday to confirm their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2024 but their performance against Denmark and in the second half of their 1-0 win over Serbia has alarmed some.

Former Manchester City and England defender Micah Richards wants to see more energy from the Three Lions with Southgate’s side looking “lethargic” against the Danes.

“I don’t know if they are being told to play like this,” Richards said on BBC One. “They are lethargic – they need more energy and need to be more aggressive.

“We are constantly inviting pressure. We have a group of players who can keep the ball.”

And Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand had similar concerns and urged England to press with more intensity in their next match.

“England have to have more intensity in the press – they are too passive at the moment,” Ferdinand said.

“They have got in some good positions high up the pitch but have lacked that intensity, and when you are passive you are played through.

“The current balance of the team is not allowing the players to reach the levels that they have done for clubs. Phil Foden is out of position and not playing his best, maybe Jude Bellingham would be better playing at number eight. It is a big concern.

“At the moment England do not know when to squeeze the pitch, who is going when, the distances between each other.

“Once you have questions tactically the picture can change in a split second in front of you and you are lost. It is baffling and concerning.”

And now Southgate has issued a worrying update by suggesting that his England side can’t press with enough intensity because of their current “physical condition”.

Southgate said: “We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity. We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition.

“We can’t press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the ­qualifiers, for example. And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control.”

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Despite scoring against Denmark on Thursday, Harry Kane has received criticism for his performance and Southgate took him off on 70 minutes for Ollie Watkins.

On Kane, Southgate added: “I am seeing every day that they are loving working together.

“I don’t think it is a lack of spark. At the moment, they ironically care too much and they need firm leadership.

“We have to guide them through the difficult period that is coming but really stay on track and focused on this challenge ahead.

“We are trying to do something that has never been done before [win the Euros]. So that is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster.

“It’s not going to go smoothly when you are trying to achieve extraordinary things. They are bloody difficult. We have to accept the level of expectations, we have to accept the arena we are in. And we have to find a better way of playing to how we have so far.”