A year that the Three Lions hope to end in glory at Lusail Stadium on December 18 began with a 2-1 test comeback against Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday night.
Breel Embolo opened the scoring for the world-ranked 14th side and England got lucky in moments before Luke Shaw equalized and captain Harry Kane converted a match-winning penalty.
Southgate mixed inexperienced players with experienced internationals in the Wembley friendly and plans to turn things around as preparations continue for Qatar against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
“We will make changes,” the England manager said. “We think it’s the right thing to do.
“We want to keep the entire squad involved. I think that has been a strength for us. The players that arrive have a good level and the team keeps going.
“They need to feel like we have the confidence in them to go into any game and we’re also at a stage of the season where their load is heavy and we have to make sure we try to navigate that in the best possible way.”
Southgate has already seen six players withdraw from the England squad and there are question marks over Emile Smith Rowe and former Barnsley defender John Stones, with the former absent against Switzerland and the latter starting in warm-up.
“With John, he felt a little bit of tension before the game,” he said. We are sure it is not too serious.
“It could be that he’s fine before Tuesday, but we didn’t really have time before the game to assess properly, so there was no point in taking risks at that point and we’ll find out a bit more (on Sunday).
“Emile worked a little bit with the fitness team today, so there is a possibility that he will do part of the training session (on Sunday). He is the only other one where we have any flag.”
Southgate hopes to have the pair available for England’s last scheduled friendly before the World Cup begins in November, and the last match before meeting their group opponents in Friday’s draw.
“I think it was all a really worthwhile exercise for us and that’s why you want that quality of opposition,” he said of Switzerland as the focus shifts to the Ivorian arrival.
“We could take lower level teams but you don’t learn anything and actually we want to stretch, we need to stretch. It puts your registry at risk, but that’s not important, really.
“We’re trying to do well in tournaments and I think with the Nations League we’ll have had more competitive games than any previous generation, which means sometimes you come unstuck, but I think in the long run you’re better at it.”
That quest for progress saw Southgate reach a milestone on Saturday, with the debuts of Marc Guehi, Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell, meaning he has now used 100 players as England manager.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but we’ve certainly never turned down the opportunity to give players a chance,” the Three Lions boss said. “I have tried to look to the future when we make those kinds of decisions: players for whom there is time and the investment can be in the short term, in the medium term or in a few years.
“I thought Marc did exactly what I’ve seen him do. I watch him play for Crystal Palace and sometimes he can fly under the radar because he’s rarely out of position and he’s very calm so you don’t see tackles, flashy moments maybe.
“But he played with that discipline and security. I thought he was excellent. With Ben (White), a little mistake for the goal, he just got caught by his shoulder, but to arrive 15 minutes before the game (after the Stones problem) and be as composed as he was, the rest of his game was very, very good with and without the ball. I thought two were really positive.”
Another positive against Switzerland was the performance of Jordan Pickford, who produced some important saves at a time when his place as England’s number 1 has frequently been questioned.
“He has always played well for us,” added Southgate. “He has a good approach with us, he has a very good relationship with (goalkeeping coach) Martyn Margetson, who I think does an excellent job with him.
“He knows the structure around him, he clearly knows how we want him to play.
“Look, there is competition for everyone’s position and that is what we want. We don’t want people to sit there confidently thinking that there is no competition. That doesn’t help a team.
“I think the form of the other goalkeepers is important, but he showed great saves again today in important moments.”
The performance against Switzerland may have been tepid at times.
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This notice was published: 2022-03-27 23:00:38