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Gareth Southgate: 'England have a long way to go'

Southgate: 'England have a long way to go'
© Reuters
England manager Gareth Southgate admits that his side still have a long way to go to compete for major honours, but believes that they are on the right track.

England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted that his side still have "a long way to go" before they will be ready to win major honours.

The Three Lions made an unexpected charge to the semi-finals of the World Cup before suffering an agonising extra-time exit at the hands of Croatia last night, condemning them to the third-place playoff against Belgium.

However, Southgate was keen to stress his pride in his youthful squad and believes that the team are on the right track to become major forces on the world stage once again.

"I'm trying to get the balance right of recognising tonight was a wonderful opportunity for us and you can't guarantee that those opportunities come again. But equally we want to be a team that are hitting quarter-finals, semi-finals, finals - that is what we have aimed to do in the long term. And we've proved that is possible. We have proved to ourselves and our country that it is possible," he told reporters.

"Now we have a new benchmark, a new level of expectation. It will be a different sort of scenario. But for these players, many have come of age on an international stage and I couldn't be prouder with what they've done. I think our job is to maximise the strengths that we have and to make the most of the team that we have. The ability of the team and the style of play we've evolved enormously in a short period of time.

"But I've said all along we're not perfect, we're not the finished article. There's a long way for us to go. Against the very best teams, we've not managed to get the wins. But we've won a lot of matches that historically England haven't won. So we have got to look at the progress we've made and, as the players get more experienced and there are other young players to come through that we think are very exciting as well, then slowly the style of play and threat we pose can evolve even more.

"But I think within the games that we've played, we've played exciting, attacking football. We've created good chances in pretty much every that game we've played, and the strength in set-plays was something that we put a focus on because we knew the importance of it, so for me that's been a positive rather than a negative."

Should England beat Belgium on Saturday afternoon then they would record their second-best finish at a World Cup ever.

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England manager Gareth Southgate on June 2, 2018
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