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Southgate pinpoints Kane and Bellingham contributions as reason to not rush changes

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 Jun 2024

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Gareth Southgate hit back at his critics as the England manager said Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane’s telling contributions against Slovakia were why he avoids making changes.

Bellingham produced a stunning acrobatic leveller after 94 minutes to keep England’s Euro 2024 hopes alive on Sunday.

Captain Kane then headed home just 50 seconds into extra time as England edged into a last-eight meeting with Switzerland after a 2-1 victory over Slovakia.

Some had criticised Southgate for not rolling the changes earlier in the second half, though the England manager says the pair’s late heroics prove the decision justified.

“With 15 minutes to go you wonder if he is out on his feet,” Southgate said of Bellingham when speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Him and Harry Kane produce those moments and that is why you don’t make changes when people are clamouring for more changes. We had enough attacking players on the pitch.”

Bellingham’s equaliser marked England’s latest goal in European Championship history, with his overhead kick timed at 94 minutes and 34 seconds.

England had been woeful up to that point, failing to register a single shot on target after Ivan Schranz’s first-half opener.

Yet Southgate believes the tide always seemed set to change after Phil Foden’s second-half finish was ruled out for offside and Declan Rice was denied by the woodwork late on.

“I had a funny feeling the game wasn’t dead and I know that sounds ridiculous,” the former England international added. “We were pushing and probing.

“Ultimately it is the one we have thrown in the box that got us the goal [Bellingham’s equaliser].”

Kane scored his 14th goal at major tournaments for England with his well-taken headed finish, with only four European players ever managing more in history.

“He is an extraordinary goal scorer, he is leading the team so well,” Southgate said of his talisman. “He has been exceptional as a captain keeping the ship steady.

“He has been through it before and nights like tonight are which the younger ones will refer back to as that is what happens in tournaments.”

A meeting with Switzerland in the quarter-finals in Dusseldorf on Saturday will mark Southgate’s 100th match in charge of his country, though he says England have not achieved anything yet.

“That’s neither here nor there,” Southgate responded when asked about the landmark. “We haven’t come to get to a quarter-final but to get through a night like tonight was fantastic character and we now play a Swiss team that have been very good.

“We have a couple of days to recover and get ready for them.”

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