Gareth Southgate relishing England's tough 2022-23 Nations League draw
Gareth Southgate believes England’s tough Nations League draw will provide good preparation for next year’s FIFA World Cup but stressed his side are determined to better their results in the competition thus far.
The Three Lions finished third in the inaugural 2018-19 UEFA Nations League before missing out on the title decider second time around, having finished third in their group last year.
Southgate and his men could only watch on as France lifted the second UEFA Nations League title earlier this year, with Spain, Italy and Belgium making up the Finals this time around.
England were given an extremely tough draw for the third edition of the competition when it was made earlier this evening, having been put in the same group as Germany, Italy and Hungary, with only one side progressing to the 2022-23 Finals.
However, Southgate said: “They are great fixtures to look forward to basically, that is my initial response.
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“The Nations League and its format is geared towards these types of games and whoever we drew out of the first two pots were going to be high level opposition so that is what we wanted leading into a World Cup year.
“We have had a tough fixture schedule through the last 12 months but the high quality of games is what helps the team to improve and they are the matches we have learned the most from.”
He continued: “We have obviously played all these teams in the last 12 months and the only things are Germany have had a change of coach in that time, so I think they have evolved the way they have played since then.
“And Italy have been a little bit different. It will be interesting to see. They have obviously missed [Leonardo] Spinazzola since the middle of the EUROS and they have been without [Giorgio] Chiellini since the EUROS so it will be interesting to see how they have evolved, and they have those important [World Cup] play-off games in March as well.
“And with Hungary we saw particularly in the game at Wembley [which finished 1-1] that was more resemblant of how Hungary have been over the last couple of years, having been promoted twice from the Nations League, so they have had a successful sequence of results over a long period of time.”
Southgate was speaking from St. George’s Park shortly after the 2022-23 Nations League draw was made in Nyon, Switzerland.
The 55 UEFA countries all take part in the Nations League and are split into four Leagues depending on the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League Access List, which is determined by past performance.
England are in League A alongside the other leading countries. Those victorious in their League A group will reach the four-team Finals in June 2023. However, those who end up bottom in their mini-division will be relegated to League B and replaced with promoted sides.
The four teams who finish bottom of their group in League B will also be relegated, with the four teams bottom of the groups in League C taking part in a play-out, where two will then move down to League D.
The exact dates for England’s fixtures will not be confirmed until tomorrow morning but Southgate’s men are set to play four matches in the first half of June 2022, before games five and six in September 2022, with teams playing each other home and away.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will be taking place in December next year, meaning there will not be an international window in October as is often the case.
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And Southgate said: “It (the June fixtures) is a good period for us. We lose the preparation in October so really the eight fixtures we have next year is the lead into the World Cup.
“In the summer we will have the players for a couple of weeks but with the fact they still get plenty of time to recover and prepare for the new season is important for us, so we are looking forward to those matches.”
He added: “It is two-fold. There is the World Cup preparation and there is always the desire to embed players who have perhaps not had as many games as others across the next year.
“But also, this is an opportunity to win a trophy and we have seen the last couple of Nations League tournaments… we loved the first one in particular. The second one was more difficult because there were no crowds in the stadiums and that was not enjoyable for us but we wanted to be in those semi-finals and we didn’t enjoy watching Spain, Italy, Belgium and France battle those out.
“That has been the only competition we have been in other the last four years that we haven’t made at least a semi-final and as difficult a challenge as that is, we want to be in those big matches.”
You can find out more about the 2022-23 UEFA Nations League draw process and see it in full here and England’s fixtures will be confirmed on EnglandFootball.com tomorrow morning.