MANAGER Gareth Southgate believes that England’s growing habit of scoring late in competitive matches should inspire them with confidence in their World Cup journey – even in adverse situations.
England start their Group G campaign against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday evening with Southgate hoping that their happy knack of finding the net in the closing stages of games continues.
Six of England’s 18 goals in qualifying arrived in the latter stages of matches, with five being registered in stoppage-time.
The Three Lions’ campaign began and finished with stoppage-time winners.
England started with a 1-0 win at hosts Slovakia in Trnava in September, 2016 with Adam Lallana netting the only goal in the fifth minute of stoppage-time in former manager Sam Allardyce’s sole match in charge.
Harry Kane then coolly fired England into this summer’s finals with his ‘94th-minute’ strike seeing off Slovenia in a single-goal victory last October.
The Tottenham striker had earlier rescued his nation with a stoppage-time leveller in a 2-2 draw against Scotland at Hampden Park last June to prevent the Auld Enemy from inflicting a first defeat upon England since 1999.
Two of England’s goals in the 4-0 success at Malta last September came in stoppage-time in the second half, with their ability to keep going until the end of games saying plenty about their fitness, persistence and mental strength.
On the importance of late goals, England manager Southgate told The Yorkshire Post: “They are things we have talked about. You want to be a team who score late goals rather than concede them.
“If you are a team who concede late goals there is a bit of a weakness there. We have got to handle being in front in games and managing it well, but to also have the character that if we are behind in games we are never beaten. They are important attributes we do discuss as a team.”
Much has been rightly made of the genuine togetherness in England’s camp.
Southgate feels that the strong bonds, tightness in the group and the way in which they showed their mettle and kept going to the end of games in qualifying augurs well for their time in the World Cup spotlight.
“There is being able to get on as a team and being able to deal with any adversity to focus on in the camp,” the England manager added.
“You have got to be able to put some of the nonsense to one side and any successful team still has to handle adversity.
“The team who got to the (World Cup) semi-finals in 1990 drew their first two games, and in Euro 1996 we drew our first game and were a penalty kick away from going to one-all against Scotland.
“So there are always tight and fine margins and you have got to be strong enough as a group to deal with that.”