Gareth Southgate: Iceland defeat a wake-up call – talent alone will not win Euro 2024

Gareth Southgate shouting on the touchline

Gareth Southgate warned his England players that talent alone will not win them the European Championship and that defeat by Iceland was a reminder they cannot “stroll” into the tournament.

England’s Wembley send-off was spoiled by Iceland, who are ranked 72nd in the world. Southgate’s team were booed at the final whistle and will fly to Germany on Monday with concerns surrounding their defence.

John Stones had to be replaced at half-time after suffering an ankle injury, but walked out of Wembley unaided and Southgate is hopeful he will be fit to play.

But Southgate did not try to hide his annoyance at the performance and suggested that England, who are ranked among the favourites to win Euro 2024, had taken Iceland for granted.

“It was a far from ideal night, I’m not going to try to dress it up as anything else,” said Southgate. “It does focus the mind that any sort of complacency that talent is going to get us this trophy and that we only have to stroll in… football is not like that.

“You’ve got to be spot-on in every aspect of the game to win any game at this level and we were a long way short of that tonight and Iceland deserved their win. They had a couple of other chances on the break. So I think it really focuses the minds to really drive the team over the next week.

“The most disappointing thing was we didn’t press well and were too stretched. With the ball, we weren’t at the level we can be individually. But it wasn’t the major problem. The major problem was without the ball. If we’d been better without the ball, the rhythm of the game would have been different.

“It’s a good opportunity to get on the training pitch, remind ourselves of what’s important in terms of winning matches and if the intensity of your game isn’t right then it can cause you a lot of problems with the ball as well.”

‘No point in taking risks on Stones’

On Stones, who was replaced by Ezri Konsa at half-time, Southgate said: “We decided there was no point in taking any chances because it is so close to the tournament and he’s a very important player for us.”

England are due to kick off their campaign against Serbia a week on Sunday and Southgate is confident his team will be better, even though they have now won just one of their past five games.

“I’m confident we will be better [against Serbia] than we were tonight,” said Southgate. “We were managing so many different things throughout that game and we ended up with a relatively young team on the pitch. The physical side is a slight concern because we have so many physical issues.

“We will be ready, tonight has not gone as we would have hoped. We have to stay very calm, I have explained to the players what needs to be better. We had enough chances to win the game and conceded too many as well.

“It’s not perfect [to have lost], but I’ve been involved in a lot of these last matches before a tournament as a player as well. No excuses for the result but there’s a lot of things we can put right quickly.”

On England’s run of one win in five games heading into the Euros, Southgate said: “Sure, but I think there are reasons for all of that. The last qualifying games, the March games, we seem to be managing players physically. Physically, the team is not perfect. We’ve got to make the best of that.”

On the reaction of the fans who booed his team, Southgate added: “I completely understand [the boos]. We didn’t play well enough to keep them excited within the game.

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