Southgate Accepts Criticism But Stands By Decision As England Suffer First Defeat

Gareth Southgate is willing to take any criticism and stands by his decision to make eight changes for England’s World Cup match with Belgium, in which they lost 2-0 on Thursday night.

Southgate had said he wanted to give his players a chance to prove themselves and therefore gave all his outfield players time on the pitch ahead of the knockout stage, which he described as their “biggest game for a decade.”

Knowing it was certainly not a disaster to finish as runners-up in Group G, Southgate decided to rest in-form Jesse Lingard and star striker Harry Kane, for the fear of him picking up a knock before England’s last-16 fixture against Colombia on Tuesday.

He said: “When you’re a manager you’ve got to make decisions that are right for your group and are right for the primary objective.

“Sometimes those decisions will be criticised and I understand that. Only one person has to make that decision with the full facts and the intricacies of managing a group and a tournament.

“As a group of staff, we were very clear on what we felt was needed physically, medically and tactically for the benefit of the group.

“We’ve got 20 outfield players that have played in a World Cup and that’s hugely important for the feeling in our camp over the next few weeks. Maybe we could have pushed a bit more by putting other players into the game tonight but we still created chances. We had one absolutely fantastic chance to tie the game.

“I had to balance that and I know in some quarters that will be criticised but I’m entirely comfortable with that. Sometimes you have to make decisions for the bigger picture.”

The Three Lions  will now face Group H winners Colombia in the last-16, before a potential quarter-final clash against either Sweden or Switzerland.

If England reach the semi-finals, they will face either Spain, Russia, Croatia or Denmark.