Southgate insists England team ‘still coming together’ after failing to ‘waltz through’ Serbia test

News Desk
England manager Gareth Southgate before a match
England manager Gareth Southgate before a match

Gareth Southgate says this England team “is still coming together” after an uncomfortable 1-0 win over Serbia in his side’s Euro 2024 opener.

Jude Bellingham scored a brilliant header inside 13 minutes of their Group C opener as the road to Berlin got off to a dream start at a rocking Veltins Arena.

But what could have been a statement victory instead turned into a slog against physical Serbia, who pushed England hard but could not find a leveller as Sunday’s clash ended 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

👉 Jude Bellingham’s England (just) beat Serbia: 16 Conclusions on an unnecessarily nervy opener

“Look, this team is still coming together,” manager Southgate said. “Everybody is expecting us to waltz through, but there is a lot of hard work ahead.

“We’re short of certain things, we’re finding best possible solutions.

“We’ve had a very complicated run-in to all of this, but the spirit of the group was there for everybody to see tonight and we’ll definitely grow from that.”

Bellingham epitomised the spirit England will need to go deep into the tournament, with Southgate full of praise for the matchwinner.

“He writes his own script,” he told the BBC. “The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back five, it is not easy to create chances and we did.

“I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week at doing that.”

👉 Harry Kane was ‘static and lumbering’ as he faces calls to be dropped by England
👉 England player ratings v Serbia: Bellingham runs the show, Kane quiet, Saka shows positive signs

Bellingham was the standout performer on a night when Southgate went for converted right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold as part of his midfield three along with Declan Rice.

“I was really pleased,” he said. “Of course, Jude has such a prominent role, but he goes forward a lot and Trent had to cover a lot of spaces. That is not a role he’s done very often at all.

“I thought he showed great discipline. He showed some moments of that fabulous passing range that he has, the shot on goal as well.

“We’re obviously learning with him in this role, but I thought he showed some of the attributes that he can bring.

“Whatever we do in there, we’re going to be playing a young player or an inexperienced player, so it was great to see him come through that test.”

While England prepare to face Euro 2020 semi-final opponents Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday, defeated Serbia will look to bounce back against Slovenia.

Head coach Dragan Stojkovic said: “It was a very good match, high quality from both teams.

“England are a very good, strong team, but we played a very brave game, the style of football we were aiming to play.

“With the changes, we managed to get where we wanted – with control of the ball and to make England defend.

“I’m proud of what we did, we didn’t deserve to lose but we’re going to keep going on.”

👉 More: England news | Euro 2024 news