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Published 20 November 2023 5 min read
England Men's Senior Team

England trio reflect on draw in North Macedonia

Written by:

Milly McEvoy

The Three Lions had to settle for a point in their final European Qualifier after a 1-1 draw in Skopje


England’s Kyle Walker, Rico Lewis and Harry Kane spoke after the Three Lions brought their UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying campaign to an end with a 1-1 draw against North Macedonia in Skopje.

Gareth Southgate’s team fell behind in the first half to an Enis Bardhi goal, after the midfielder had scored from the rebound after seeing his penalty saved by Jordan Pickford.

The spot-kick had been awarded following a harsh handball award against Lewis, who was making his England debut just a day before his 19th birthday.

But the Manchester City youngster says he won’t let that moment spoil what was an otherwise memorable night his young career.

“Overall, I am very happy,” he said. 

“It’s unfortunate with the result and the decision that went against me, but I’m so happy to have made my debut before my birthday, it is a lovely birthday present and to do it with the people around me I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better. 

“All I can do is focus on myself and what I can do to get better and whatever will be will be, I just need to focus on what I can do and the little bits that I can improve and we’ll see what happens.”
Rico Lewis made his England senior debut during the 1-1 draw with North Macedonia
Rico Lewis made his England senior debut during the 1-1 draw with North Macedonia
It was also a memorable night for his Three Lions and City teammate Walker, who led out England as captain for the first time.

And he was philosophical about the result, which left England as top of their qualifying group and among the top seeds at next month’s EURO 2024 draw.

“It is a fantastic moment for myself, for my family and for everyone who has got me to this position, all I can wish for is a win but it wasn’t and we move on from that,” he said.

“I think after the qualification that we have had and the fact we have already qualified, it was always going to be tough to come here.

“But we dug in and we got a point, we wanted to take three but things happen in football that I don’t think are fair and Rico has received an unfair decision there.

“He’s [Lewis] a great lad he and shows day in day out, the quality to play for a team like we have got - he deserves this cap because I think he has been fantastic.

“It’s been a short week where we have had two games where we have already qualified. We did want to come and keep going up the world rankings. But we have to look at it a little bit different.

“We knew it was going to be difficult, it’s a long flight but it is no excuse. We know that we should probably be taking three points from here. But congratulations to them, they have got the draw and it is something to work on in the future for us.”
Kane's introduction co-incided with England getting themselves level in Skopje
Kane's introduction co-incided with England getting themselves level in Skopje
For Kane, he had to settle for a place on the bench after what has been a busy year on both a domestic and international front.

But he made an instant impact after his second-half introduction by making his presence felt at a corner which led to North Macedonia’s Jani Atanasov scoring an own goal to level the game up.

“It was a tough game, playing on a pitch which is difficult to play on with our style of football but credit to the boys,” added Kane.

“We went 1-0 behind against the run of play to a soft penalty and second half I thought we came out with real energy and we tried to get back in the game and we did. And then it was us from there, we couldn’t quite get the final goal to finish it off.

“I came on at the right time for the corner. It was good to get on the pitch I am always trying to help the team out as much as possible whether it is 90 minutes, ten minutes, or whatever it is. It was an important stage to get a goal back. It was a shame we couldn’t get another one and finish the year off with a win.

“I think it was an own goal, I’ll have to watch it back, but I am pretty sure it was an own goal.

“We are playing games that I know people expect us to win 5-0 or 6-0 but that is not always the case. They have obviously done a job on Italy in the World Cup qualifiers to knock them out.

“We wanted to finish the year with a win, that didn’t work out but we can be really proud of how the qualifying campaign has gone and we can look forward to the two friendlies in March.”

The Bayern Munich striker was also left impressed by Lewis, who has been with the squad for the first time during this camp having only broke into the Manchester City team in the last 12 months.

“I thought he [Lewis] was really good, with the ball and without the ball,” said Kane.

“It’s a shame about the penalty but he can be very proud of his debut. I thought he was fantastic all throughout the game, he needs to keep working hard as I’m sure he will and I’m sure he will be back with us and try to get on the pitch.”