WEMBLEY: Manager Gareth Southgate acknowledged plenty of work over the next eight months after a 1-0 win over Slovenia at Wembley took England to next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Southgate can now plan for a series of structured friendly matches in preparations for the finals, including Wembley dates with World Cup holders Germany on November 10 and former five-times champions Brazil on November 14.
He said: “I always felt we would achieve the objective. Tonight highlighted where we are.
“We’d have liked to have played more fluidly and score more goals. We are having to find a way of winning by being a bit more savvy but we have goalscorers and the important thing was to stay resilient through a difficult period in the second half when there was a bit of anxiety.
“We have to be a team who score late goals not concede them.
“It wasn’t the night we wanted or the performance we wanted but when I was given the job the task was to qualify for Russia. Now we have to see how to evolve the team.
“These players are going to improve over the next years and we have to give them the backing to help them achieve . .. for any of these young players to evolve, they have to go to a World Cup.”
Slovenia coach Srecko Katanec, former international midfielder, was disappointed to have seen his team’s qualifying hopes extinguished with one game still remaining. He confirmed that he would step down after Sunday’s concluding tie against Scotland.
Katanec said: “Congratulations to England. They didn’t deserve this victory but they scored the goal. Our aim was to win: one point was neer going to be enough. But I think we played a decent game of which my players can be proud.
“Our plan was to hold out for 60 or 70 minutes and then attack and in the second half we were the better team. I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”