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  • By Yann Tear

Southgate wants England to stick to the game plan

Gareth Southgate is vowing to stick to the same humble approach and desire to improve that underscored the World Cup campaign.

England were beaten 2-1 by Spain at Wembley on their return to competitive action, which already makes progress to the finals of the new Uefa Nations League a tough prospect.

But no setbacks should sidetrack the team from putting faith in youth, an energetic tempo and an eagerness to get better.

“I think we’ve got to keep faith in the way we’re trying to play,” said the England boss. “Otherwise, we go back to what we did historically and I believe there’s no way we’ll ever be a top team if we do that.

“So we’ve got to be brave enough to stick to our principles, get better at what we’re doing and identify how we improve.

“That’s not going to be an easy task because you can see the level of the top teams. I said in the summer we are under no illusions about that. But we are prepared for that challenge.

“We have some players who can and have shown they can perform at the [highest] level and there are some that are still a work in progress. But in my opinion, we’ve got the best group of players in the country here and we’ve got others to come back from injury and maybe coming through the junior ranks.”

Southgate’s men were deprived of a confidence-boosting equaliser in injury time by a controversial refereeing decision, but the England boss did not want to hide from the lessons of the match.

“I think it’s clear for everybody to see that it should have been a goal, but we have to accept that over the 90 minutes, Spain were better than us for long periods of the game,” he said.

“We know the quality they possess. Their retention of the ball was top class. We were disjointed with some of our pressing, but even when you press well against them, they have some wonderful players that can wriggle out of problems and play first time out of situations, and at the moment, we’re not able to do that when teams are pressing us high.”

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