Southgate – England ready to bounce back in Bulgaria

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Gareth Southgate is confident England will bounce back from their surprise 2-1 defeat against the Czech Republic and get their Euro 2020 qualification back on track against Bulgaria.

The Three Lions lost their first European or World Cup qualifier in a decade when going down in Prague on Friday night, when winning would have booked them a place at the finals.

Ahead of Monday night’s Group A clash in Sofia, England boss Southgate told Sky Sports News: “We have a very honest group and are very self-reflective. They don’t need me to tell them when they haven’t played at the level they can.

England’s Harry Kane reacts during Friday's defeat in Prague
England’s Harry Kane reacts during Friday’s defeat in Prague (Nick Potts/PA)

“I don’t think defeats harm teams if the reaction is good. Then what you learn from defeats and the resilience from defeats are important parts of a player’s career.

“I have always maintained that we have to qualify, and we haven’t secured that qualification yet and our focus tomorrow is to get the performance and result.”

There has been suggestion that Southgate may revert to a three-man defence which was used to great effect during last year’s run to the World Cup semi-final, but the England boss remained coy on the idea.

England's defence came under scrutiny in Prague
England’s defence came under scrutiny in Prague (NickPotts/PA)

“In terms of tactical adjustments, we are always thinking about the best way to get the best players on the field, be the most dangerous, to get the best of our strengths but hide our weaknesses.

“We have done that over three years. We have tried different formations, we tried something first half the other night. In hindsight – because of the result – it didn’t work but it doesn’t mean it was wrong to have a go at it.

“If we don’t ever think about evolving and trying those things then we will never progress as a team. We will always continue to make those assessments and the priority is to put in a good performance.”

Bulgaria manager Krasimir Balakov said in his press conference that he believed English football had a bigger problem with racism, but Southgate was keen to focus on the match in Sofia on Monday evening.

He added: “Well I say the same as I said the other night in Prague. We are guests in another country and I have always said we have as many issues in own country to resolve than anywhere else.

England players were subjected to racist chants during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro
England players were subjected to racist chants during their Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro (Nick Potts/PA)

“We had to prepare our players for what happened in Montenegro, so that was a process that we needed to go through before our next away fixtures.

“Outside of that, we trust the authorities to make sure everything is in place and everybody involved in the game from both countries is wanting to talk about the match.”

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