Trying to plot easier route too dangerous, says Southgate
Gareth Southgate believes it would be “dangerous territory” for England to plot a favourable World Cup path, especially having seen their last major tournament end in humiliation against unfancied Iceland.
The Three Lions sealed progress to the last-16 with a match to spare after following up their last-gasp 2-1 win against Tunisia by annihilating Panama 6-1 in Nizhny Novgorod.
Belgium also qualified as a result of England’s win on Sunday, leaving Group G finely poised ahead of the pair’s meeting in Kaliningrad on Thursday.
Southgate wants to get the balance right. Level on points, goal difference and goals scored, fair play may end up deciding who finishes top — a position Belgium are said to be keen to avoid.
The runners-up could well find a simpler route to the latter stages of the World Cup — but Southgate is wary of adopting that mentality with the Euro 2016 embarrassment against Iceland fresh in his mind.
“That would be a very difficult mindset to have,” he said. “We want to win every game. I don’t know how we would go into a game not wanting to win.
“So, I think that’s dangerous territory if we start trying to plot and predict where we might end up. We had a really favourable draw in the last tournament and it didn’t work out that way.
“We have to keep playing as well as we can, preparing the team the right way, keep the momentum and I have to keep the squad involved.”