Saturday 16 December 2017

'We've got to improve' - Southgate

England boss already looking ahead to Russia after late Hampden drama

England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal with Chris Smalling. Photo: Reuters
England's Harry Kane celebrates scoring their second goal with Chris Smalling. Photo: Reuters

England still have work to do to secure World Cup qualification, but preparations for Russia are well under way as Gareth Southgate attempts to prevent their all-too-frequent major tournament struggles.

Having gone out of at the group stage in Brazil before finishing their malaria tablets three years ago, England bowed out of Euro 2016 at the last-16 juncture to minnows Iceland.

Those failings are fresh in the mind of the man now charge, with former England defender Southgate outlining to his desire to become the world's best upon his permanent appointment as manager.

Such lofty ambitions means all decisions have been made with the World Cup in Russia in mind, even if Saturday's 2-2 draw at Scotland saw their lead at the top of Group F cut to just two points.

"That is the challenge for us," Southgate said when asked about improving performances on the major stages.

"The challenge is how do we become the best team in the world? We have to improve in all areas to do that.

"We can only take steps at a time and work as a team to improve every area - whether that's technical, tactical, psychological.

"But we are identifying those areas and we'll keep working on it." The English Football Association has been looking at potential training bases in Russia as logistical planning begins ahead of the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Leigh Griffiths was left "gutted" following the draw, despite scoring a brace of free-kicks with his first goals in dark blue.

England substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to have set the visitors on course for a World Cup qualifying victory with a 70th-minute opener.

However, Hoops striker Griffiths, winning his 13th cap, sent most of Hampden Park wild when he curled in two wonderful set-pieces in the 87th and 90th minutes.

Scotland's Leigh Griffiths. Photo: PA
Scotland's Leigh Griffiths. Photo: PA

But with a famous victory on the cards, England skipper Harry Kane levelled in stoppage time to deflate the Tartan Army and the Celtic forward. Gordon Strachan's side are six points behind Group F leaders England with four fixtures remaining.

Griffiths, clutching his man-of-the-match champagne, admitted his second goal "probably" gave him his best feeling in football but said: "I am gutted.

"I should be absolutely delighted with two goals and man of the match, walking in here with three points.

"But one lapse of concentration has cost us in the end and instead of getting three points we got one."