Proud Southgate hails England’s progression in Nations League

proud southgate hails englands progression in nations league

Gareth Southgate spoke with immense pride after his young England squad took another big step in their development.

England scored twice in the final 12 minutes in a 2-1 win over Croatia on Sunday, which landed them a spot in last four of the Nations League.

The qualification for the Finla Four mini tournament in June is the next step in a progression under Southgate which started with a run to the World Cup semi-finals this summer.

"I'm hugely proud of all the players and staff," Southgate told reporters after the win.

"We've grown together, we've improved with every step.

"Today was another big occasion. Plenty of pressure but they coped with it really well," the manager added.

Both teams needed a win at Wembley Stadium to overtake Spain at the top of their group.

England wasted several good chances and Croatia's Andrej Kramaric made them pay with a deflected goal in the second half.

But Jesse Lingard equalized in the 78th minute and captain Harry Kane scored the winner seven minutes later to turn the tables on the team that ended their World Cup dream in July.

"We came up short in the World Cup but we wanted to put it right and we've done that today," midfielder Fabian Delph said.

"In the dressing room the energy was electric. We're glad we can do ourselves proud and to bring the nation together."

After their good run in Russia, it would have been easy for England to rest on their laurels.

And things were not looking great for them after losing to Spain and drawing with Croatia in their first two Nations League games.

But they kept themselves alive with an impressive win in Spain last month.

Croatia's victory over Spain last week then set up Sunday's clash, where either team could win the group or be relegated.

For most of the game it looked like Croatia would close the deal, but England fought back to get themselves into the final four.

"We've come out of an incredibly tough group, in terms of form and world rankings the toughest," Southgate said. "We haven't sat back after the summer and preened ourselves. We've progressed."

While England celebrated, Croatia were left to lick their wounds.

"Lack of energy and stamina are the main reasons … and a fall in concentration," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic when asked why his team lost.

"It was hard to recuperate after Spain, we just don't have that depth."

Dalic, though, isn't concerned relegation will derail the momentum started when his side reached its first World Cup final four months ago.

"Euro qualifiers are our main target," he said. "We used the League of Nations to introduce young players.

"Of course, we an repeat the World Cup performance and we're building the foundation for that now."

Much like England are doing.

"We said after the World Cup we want to keep progressing and get better – and the way to do that is by beating top teams," Kane said.

"We finished the year strong. We'll enjoy this one."

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