Thu. Dec 1st, 2022

Gareth Southgate delivered the line with a smile. “We had to deal with Qatari politics, Iranian politics… and some tactical work on the ground.” It was clear what the England manager wanted to say more clearly.

After all the controversy that eclipsed this World Cup, it was time to embrace the reasons he and his players are here. And while sensitive to a variety of issues, none should be ashamed or contradicted by feeling a surge of excitement ahead of Monday’s tournament opening against Iran.

Granted that Iran can be a tough nut to crack – Carlos Queiroz’s team will be neat and tough to disperse – Southgate is confident that England is ready. This is because of the psychological work he has prioritized since he brought his actors together. “We have to make sure we know what our intentions are, what our mindset is – we’re focused on that as well as tactics and technique,” ​​Southgate said, referring to three specific drives. facades.

There are those who compartmentalize the negativity around these finals; the other to take down what has haunted his team since the start of a testing and potentially demoralizing League of Nations campaign the summer. And finally, it is vital to reset after the break in the European club season.

“Our challenge was that while there was so much going on after league games last weekend, we were returning in a short time with loads of games, lots of tactical meetings for them at their club. Clean the brain as much as anything,” Southgate said.

“To be able to park anything that goes well or not in a club… There are many different individuals in different areas. And then to really focus on our group, getting them back together to enjoy the first few days.

Pleasure has been the password. The environment in the team hotel in Al Wakrah has been adjusted to help players relax. The Football Association hopes that small details like hanging photos of players’ loved ones in their bedrooms will make the difference.

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Southgate’s training was set to be light on arrival, then briefly adjusted to be harder for heat acclimation purposes, then relaxed again, allowing players to “adapt to the game” in his own words. Everything has been condensed, boiled down for this most unusual buildup.

The manager made it pretty clear how he felt about the decision, telling his team that it wasn’t their fault that the tournament was in Qatar. What he wants to play for, the rare position they find themselves in: represent England in a big tournament, childhood dreams come true.

Southgate emphasized this message, as did his deputy, Steve Holland. Indeed, Prince William did the same, addressing the team at St George’s Park before he left. There have been other talks and video presentations where Southgate said, “You should remind yourself of this moment in time.” Performance will come with freedom and awareness.

“Tournament football is different,” Southgate said. “Germany has always been one of the most important examples of this. This is how we really need to be.”

The Germans are on Southgate’s mind in part because of their Nations League and also their outstanding tournament records. “We want to be Germany,” he said. “When I looked at the Wikipedia pages, there were four golds, four silvers, four bronzes in the World Cups. The European Championships: three gold, three silver, three bronze. Our page didn’t look like that, but 40 years from now we would be very happy if it was like this, and that should be our goal, to be constantly challenging. ”

To that end, Southgate sought to cover up the Nations League quartet, which tied Germany and Italy in June and brought Hungary two losses. And certainly the same goes for the defeat in Italy in September, when he was booed by traveling England fans.

The last Nations League draw with Germany in September was better – a 3-3 draw at Wembley. England took a 3-2 lead from 2-0 before a late sucker punch.

“There was a 40-minute detention” [in that game]said Southgate. “I got that from the noise around the group. The players have learned a lot from that. They can’t influence it but they have to make sure they prevent it. Now they know it’s changed. There’s a tournament excitement and we want that intent and mindset that we saw in the last half hour at Wembley. That has to be the starting point for us.

“It’s also my responsibility to remind the players that there is so much they actually do well and that when they come to this tournament they should not focus on the recent past.”

Southgate didn’t want to get involved in an argument over whether to use a back three or a back four, even though he knew he would be judged more harshly if he played first against Iran and didn’t win. What he wants to find is the best way to apply pressure all over the court against a given opponent, whether it’s a threesome, a foursome, or even an in-game mix of the two.

Patience is vital. Iran has conceded two or more goals in only 15 times in 100 matches under Queiroz and never came to a win from behind. A war of attrition is approaching and Britain would do well to remember that this is usually the case at this level.

“I played on a team. [England] At Euro 96,” Southgate said. “Everyone will remember the Netherlands game, but there was also a Switzerland game, a Spain game and a half Scotland game. I also remember watching the replay. [the] 66 [World Cup final]. we [leading] against [West] Germany backed the team and the audience booed. Plus ça change.” Southgate is determined to map a new district.