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Southgate says England will benefit from Serbia ‘suffering’

Gareth Southgate believes England will benefit from being made to ‘suffer’ against Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener.

England began their Euro 2024 campaign with a 1-0 win over a stubborn Serbia side in Gelsenkirchen, with Jude Bellingham’s brave header the difference between the teams.

The Three Lions were excellent across the opening half an hour and took a deserved lead on 13 minutes when the Real Madrid midfielder arrived into the box to crash home a header from Bukayo Saka’s right-wing cross.


England were in control early on but failed to build on that dominance and Serbia grew into the game – and in confidence. Aleksandar Mitrovic fired an effort just wide after a mistake from Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield, while Jordan Pickford was forced into a good save from a long-range effort after the break.

Jarrod Bowen’s introduction added spark and the West Ham winger set up Harry Kane for a good chance as England searched for a second, but the Three Lions’ captain saw his effort tipped onto the crossbar by Predrag Rajković.

The latter also had his gloves stung by a long-range effort from Alexander-Arnold but England largely lacked imagination in the final third and ended the contest with just 0.54 xG created.

England next face Denmark, who drew 1-1 with Slovenia earlier in the day, on Thursday evening and Southgate believes his team will have benefitted from a tough opening assignment against Serbia, who had long spells with the ball after the break.

“They are a strong team. We had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us,” Southgate said to the BBC at full-time.

“I think to defend the box the way we did was really good for us. I was really pleased with a lot of the play. Second half we didn’t keep it as well as I would have liked but to get the win is very important.”

On Jude Bellingham, who continued a dream debut season with Real Madrid that saw him with a La Liga and Champions League double, he added: “He writes his own script. The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back give it is not easy to create chances and we did. I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week at doing that.”

One of the biggest decisions facing Southgate ahead of the game was in midfield and the England boss opted for Liverpool right-back Alexander-Arnold in a central position.


The 25-year-old had a mixed evening, with bright moments coupled with the error that led to Mitrovic’s first-half effort. Asked on how he felt Alexander-Arnold handled the midfield role, Southgate said: “I have to say, he has been really diligent in getting his positioning right. I think he adapted and adjusted really well and used the ball well. We have got a squad and we need to use it.”

Read – Kane pleased as England edge Serbia ”battle’

See more – ‘Onto the next one’ – Bellingham laser-focused after England win Euro 2024 opener

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