Gareth Southgate backs England to deliver against Slovenia

England have been heavily criticised in their first two games despite taking four points.

Gareth Southgate is confident England will win their group
Gareth Southgate is confident England will win their group (Adam Davy/PA)

Gareth Southgate is confident England will deliver an improved performance against Slovenia as the Euro 2024 hopefuls look to top their group following days of scrutiny and criticism.

An unconvincing 1-0 victory against Serbia in their Group C opener was compounded by arguably their worst major tournament display under the former defender.

England were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw against Denmark on Thursday, leading to widespread examination and analysis of a team that has hit back at ex-players in recent days.

Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer have been among the most vocal critics and Southgate, who claims to be “oblivious” about such comments, says it is time the Euro 2020 runners-up do their talking on the field.

“We have had time on the training pitch and plenty of discussions with the players,” the England manager said on the eve of Tuesday’s group finale against Slovenia.

“Obviously whatever I say is fairly irrelevant. We have to go and produce it on the pitch.

“We’re very clear on where we need to be better. We haven’t hidden from that. I think we have a pretty open dialogue – the players, staff – and we’re all on the same page on that.

“The route forward was pretty simple to highlight. Of course, then we’ve got to go and deliver and I’m expecting that we will do that tomorrow.”

Southgate says there has been a “brutally honest” assessment about the need to kick on following their stumbling start to a tournament they remain among the favourites to win.

England will qualify for the round of 16 without kicking a ball if Albania fail to beat Spain, but they do not want to merely stumble through as one of the best third-placed sides.

“The mood’s very good,” Southgate said in Cologne. “We know that in the world we live in there will always be external noise, but external noise shouldn’t affect us.

“What’s important is the internal. We’re the only ones that can perform on the pitch, we’re the only ones that can work together to get those performances better. And performance is what we’re focusing on.

“The results have basically, pretty much put us in the next round already, and it’s now about can we win the group.

“But of course we want to hit a different level to the level that we’ve hit so far.

“The lead into this wasn’t straightforward, into the prep games, into the first two games, so there are some mitigating factors.

Luke Shaw will not feature despite being back in training
Luke Shaw will not feature despite being back in training (Adam Davy/PA)

“But we’re not hiding from anything and we’re not making any excuses at all. That’s not the culture we have as a group.

“There’s been a very honest appraisal of what we’ve done, and we’re very clear on where we need to be better and how we’re going to do that for tomorrow, which tactically is a different game anyway.

“But there’s some fundamentals of how we’ve played over a long period of time that we need we need to get back to.”

Southgate is not expected to make widespread changes despite their slow start to the tournament in Germany, with Conor Gallagher tipped to replace makeshift midfielder Trent Alexander-Arnold.

All 26 players trained ahead of the RheinEnergieStadion encounter, but left-back Luke Shaw will not feature as his rehabilitation from a hamstring issue continues cautiously.

“Luke’s the only one that is not really available,” Southgate said. “He’ll possibly change with the team tomorrow but he’s not quite ready to be involved in the game yet.”