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Published 13 October 2023 4 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Southgate: 'I gave them a tough challenge'

Written by:

Ben Hart

Three Lions boss pleased with response of his players after overcoming Australia in a tough encounter at Wembley


England manager Gareth Southgate paid tribute to his squad, after seeing them return to Wembley for the first time this season and beat Australia.

It took a second-half goal from the recalled Ollie Watkins to settle a tough encounter with the Socceroos, as the Three Lions boss provided an opportunity to impress for many of his squad.

And with a team that showed plenty of changes from last month’s encounters with Ukraine and Scotland, and only a few days to prepare for this game on the training ground, Southgate acknowledged that it was always going to be tough.

“We made a lot of changes, that made it really difficult or the players,” he said.

“It’s tough playing international when you haven't got a lot of caps behind you.

“I gave them a really tough challenge and Australia were good, they were athletic and well organised. So I’m pleased for the win after putting them in the position.
Ollie Watkins scored England's winner against the Socceroos following his recall to Southgate's squad
Ollie Watkins scored England's winner against the Socceroos following his recall to Southgate's squad

“There were some positives, we know we can play better and it was tough for the players but you need to give players the opportunity on this stage.”

As the Three Lions now turn their attention to their next EURO 2024 qualifier against Italy, Southgate believes his squad is beginning to grow with more experience game by game.

And with EURO qualification now just one win away for his team next week, he believes they're in as good a position as they've ever been to build on previous tournament performances should they be heading to Germany next summer.

“In some positions we have huge depth and in others we haven't,” he said.

“We have to constantly keep looking. We have an under-21 team who are playing very well and we need that competition for places and of course there are some senior players who are injured.

“But the young players who have come in now have a lot of experience as well, Declan Rice I think has 40 caps now.

“We have to embrace it. Four or five years ago we were not quite at that level.

“Now the belief is there, there's no more experiences the players need to go through with us or their clubs, we have Champions League winners, Premier League winners and we have to embrace that."