Southgate tells England players to stay hungry after perfect Euro 2024 start

  • Southgate warns against complacency in next two games
  • Manager delighted with Bukayo Saka’s progress

Gareth Southgate urged his players to remain hungry after England maintained their perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying by beating Ukraine 2-0 at Wembley on Sunday.

England have six points from their first two games in Group C after they responded to facing their main rivals for qualification by winning away to Italy for the first time in 62 years and cruising past Ukraine thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka.

But Southgate, who hailed Saka after the winger backed up his assist for Kane with a stunning strike of his own, warned his side not to relax before the less taxing assignments of visiting Malta and hosting North Macedonia in June.

“I would expect everyone would want to be here and be a part of it,” the England manager said.

“We will look to psychologically refresh the group by giving them some time off at the end of the season but, if we think we haven’t got to turn up for games in June because the world ranking of the opponents isn’t as high as the two now, then we are in trouble.

“That is not the approach we will be looking for. We are challenging the team to be the best in Europe in the next 13 months. That requires everyone’s commitment and that requires the standards of training to be at the highest level – no matter who we are playing against.”

Harry Kane receives a trophy for becoming England’s all-time top scorer before facing Ukraine
Harry Kane was given a trophy for becoming England’s all-time top scorer before facing Ukraine. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Southgate was delighted with Saka after the 21-year-old scored his eighth goal for England. “When he’s in front of goal now he plays with real belief. You’re expecting him to score when he goes through and I think that’s been a mentality shift as much as anything technical.

“He knows to be a really top wide player you need the numbers of goals and assists and he has delivered that all season. His hunger, his humility, are what’s got him on a good path. He has all the attributes to continue to improve. I don’t see that changing. He’s got great support around him. He’s progressing brilliantly.”

Kane could celebrate a productive spell away from Tottenham, who are expected to part company with Antonio Conte this week. “Obviously there’s a lot going on at Tottenham but I’ve really enjoyed this week with England,” the country’s new record goalscorer said. “That’s the most important thing and now it’s time to get back to my club.”

Southgate, who saw James Maddison impress on his full debut, was short of options on his bench after Phil Foden withdrew from the squad to have his appendix removed on Sunday morning. The Manchester City midfielder is unlikely to feature against Liverpool on Saturday and could miss the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich next month.

“Over the last 48 hours he was having symptoms and our doctor got a little bit more concerned yesterday afternoon,” Southgate said.

“Thankfully he was in a good position to see a specialist and be operated on this morning. He’s also been suffering with his foot injury and I think this hopefully could clear that up at the same time.”


Jacob Steinberg at Wembley

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