Belfast Telegraph

Southgate's determined to shine on the world stage

Scotland 2 England 2

By Simon Peach

England still have work to do to secure World Cup qualification, but preparations for Russia are well under way as Gareth Southgate attempts to prevent their all too frequent major tournament struggles.

Having gone out of at the group stage in Brazil before finishing their malaria tablets three years ago, the Three Lions bowed out of Euro 2016 at the last 16 juncture to minnows Iceland.

Those failings are fresh in the mind of the man now charge, with former England defender Southgate outlining to his desire to become the world's best upon his permanent appointment as manager.

Such lofty ambitions means all decisions have been made with the World Cup in Russia in mind, even if Saturday's 2-2 draw at Scotland saw their lead at the top of Group F cut to just two points.

"That is the challenge for us," Southgate said when asked about improving performances on the major stages.

"The challenge is how do we become the best team in the world? We have to improve in all areas to do that.

"We can only take steps at a time and work as a team to improve every area - whether that's technical, tactical, psychological.

"But we are identifying those areas and keep working on it.

"You have short-term objectives in winning individual games but in the background a lot of the work we're doing is to start to prepare us for the finals."

The Football Association has been looking at potential training bases in Russia as logistical planning begins ahead of the World Cup.

On the field Southgate is trying to increase the leadership and camaraderie within a group that lacks experience but boasts boatloads of promise.

The England boss took the squad away with the Royal Marines in an unorthodox start to the international break and, having boldly overlooked Wayne Rooney, handed Harry Kane the captaincy in Scotland.

The 23-year-old was the fifth man to skipper the Three Lions in Southgate's seven matches and rose to the occasion, firing home a late leveller after two stunning Leigh Griffiths free kicks put Scotland on the brink of a famous win.

"I think it was an important moment for the team, important moment individually for Harry ," Southgate said.

"We might have been sitting here talking about how long it was since he last scored for England if he hadn't scored it. It is a significant goal but for many different reasons."

Captaincy is sure to be another big topic in Paris, where England end their season with a glamour friendly against France.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's goalscoring impact off the bench in Glasgow gives him a chance of a start, while Ben Gibson and Kieran Trippier will be hoping to make their senior debuts.

Joe Hart, under scrutiny following Griffiths' brace, could well be replaced given Southgate named four goalkeepers in a squad that gives him options heading to the Stade de France.

Scotland: Gordon, Berra, Mulgrew, Tierney, Anya (Martin 81), Morrison (McArthur 45), Brown, Robertson, Snodgrass (Fraser 67), Armstrong, Griffiths.

Subs not used: Marshall, Naismith, Bannan, Fletcher, Forrest, Hamilton, Cairney, Reynolds.

England: Hart, Walker, Smalling, Cahill, Bertrand, Livermore (Defoe 90), Dier, Rashford (Oxlade-Chamberlain 65), Alli (Sterling 84), Lallana, Kane.

Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)

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