Frustrated England eke out draw against Denmark with Gareth Southgate's future hanging over competition

20 June 2024, 21:49 | Updated: 21 June 2024, 07:51

It was a night of frustration in Frankfurt for The Three Lions and Denmark fans rubbed it in.

"Champions of Europe - you'll never sing that," they chanted in good-natured taunts.

The England supporters drifting out of the stadium after the 1-1 draw had nothing in response.

Just mostly silence between the grumbling about Gareth Southgate's tactics and whether he's getting enough out of such a talented group.

He is not, most believed.

Still inside the Frankfurt stadium, Southgate was trying to explain why they fell short.

"These boys aren't lacking effort at the moment," Southgate said. "It's not a case of they're not trying, but we've got to find a better way of playing. We've got to find more quality in what we're doing."

But hearing booing from your own fans can be demoralising, especially at a tournament.

"If we don't hit that level… we have to accept what comes our way," Southgate said.

"We have to find the best way to solve that. Of course we need the fans."

So many have seen this all before - a lead gained and not built on.

Against Serbia, holding on proved just enough for a 1-0 win to open Group C.

Now with four points, that should be enough to take England through to the knockout phase.

But qualification could have been secured - before facing Slovenia on Tuesday - as group winners had they built on Harry Kane's 18th-minute close-range goal.

But they were too sluggish. Too sloppy.

And too much space was given for Morten Hjulmand to equalise 15 minutes after Kane's opener with a stunning strike from distance.

"I don't think that's the physical level of the team at the moment," Southgate said.

Whatever Southgate said at halftime didn't produce the response required - just a couple of attempts from Phil Foden and Declan Rice.

"Our press wasn't intense enough, and it meant that our backline had a problem with the players dropping either side of our pivots," Southgate said.

"So that's something that has to be better. We know with the profile of players that we've got, we don't feel the way to press is really high up the pitch."

Southgate didn't make a bold call - waiting until 20 minutes to go before making a triple change.

That, unusually meant, removing captain Kane.

"The other night took a lot out of him," Southgate said of Sunday's 1-0 win over Serbia.

"We could have stayed with it, but we thought, to get speed in the front line at that moment, to get energy to be able to press, was important."

What could change against Slovenia - taking right back Trent Alexander-Arnold out of midfield?

Read more:
Southgate says 'huge amount of work' to do after Denmark draw
Serbia threaten to pull out of Euro 2024

"I understand you're always going to ask me about individuals, but the team didn't function today," Southgate responded. "That's my responsibility. I'm in control of that. I have to find solutions to that.

"The players are giving absolutely everything they have … if anything, they're showing they care too much."

And it is the country caring so much about the fortunes of the Three Lions - and a quest for a first trophy since 1966 - that shows there is so much expectation and pressure to deliver.

Especially when the unexpected can happen at a Euros - Greece winning in 2004 and, of course, Denmark in 1992. As they were reminded of in those chants here.

For Southgate the coming weeks in Germany will determine his legacy - and whether he leaves the job after eight years.

He said: "I've got to lead the group in the right way, make intelligent decisions to find the best balance, to find more of a threat with what we're delivering with the ball.

"And to be better without the ball so that we're not needing to defend for the long periods of the game that we are at the moment."