Euro 2024: Gareth Southgate suggests England players are not fit enough

22 June 2024, 09:12 | Updated: 22 June 2024, 11:49

England boss Gareth Southgate has suggested his players are not fit enough after criticism of the team's lacklustre start to their Euro 2024 campaign.

He said his side have "limitations" and are struggling to play a pressing game and disrupt the opposing team because of their physical condition.

Although among the favourites to go all the way in Germany this summer, they have opened the tournament with a narrow win and an underwhelming draw.

England are in a good position to advance to the last 16, but their flat performance to-date has drawn fire from pundits and fans alike.

Sunday's outing in the 1-0 win against Serbia raised concerns that were further fuelled in the Denmark clash, with the squad booed and jeered following the 1-1 draw in Frankfurt.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday evening's final group game against Slovenia in Cologne, Southgate said: "We are not pressing well enough, with enough intensity.

"We have limitations in how we can do that with the physical condition.

"We can't press as high up the pitch as we might have done in the qualifiers, for example.

"And we are not keeping the ball well enough. We have to keep the ball better and build with more control."

Squad fitness has been a major headache for Southgate around the Euros, with absentees compounded by the physical condition of others.

Captain Harry Kane was taken off in the second half on Thursday as the Bayern Munich striker missed the end of the season with a back injury.

At the same time, there is intense pressure on the side, with the focus on winning the Euros rather than just limping through to the knockout phase.

Southgate's squad want to repeat the success of the Lionesses by becoming European champions and making history as the first England men's team to win the continental crown.

In light of this, the England manager has indicated the players "care too much" about winning a major internatioanl trophy - something no senior men's England side has managed since lifting the World Cup in 1966.

Read more:
Southgate says 'huge amount of work' to do after Denmark draw
Three England problems Southgate must solve - analysis

Southgate said: "I am seeing every day that they are loving working together. I don't think it is a lack of spark.

"At the moment, they ironically care too much and they need firm leadership at this time, in my opinion.

"We have to guide through the difficult period that is coming but really stay on track and focused on this challenge ahead."

He added: "We are trying to do something that has never been done before. So that is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster.

"It's not going to go smoothly when you are trying to achieve extraordinary things. They are bloody difficult.

"So, we have to accept the level of expectations, we have to accept the arena we are in. And we have to find a better way of playing to how we have so far."

England player Declan Rice also believes the team are so anxious to end a 58-year wait for a major men's trophy that they are putting too much pressure on themselves.

The Arsenal midfielder said: "I think we are all so desperate to do the country proud.

"We are all so desperate to win, to be leaders, to go out there and give people memories for lifetimes and sometimes I maybe feel like we put too much pressure on ourselves where we could just go out there and let it just take care of ourselves."

He added: "Of course there is expectation because they are the best players in the world. And that goes for everyone throughout the team. There's going to be that pressure.

"This is England, a major tournament. But look this is our job and this is what we have to deal with. At the end of the day it's us, we've played in high-pressure games, high-pressure environments."