04302017

‘He has shown great maturity’ – Southgate on captain Hart & England’s need to be flexible

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Southgate wants ‘flexible’ England team

Gareth Southgate says England must have the “flexibility” to adapt against different opponents ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

Southgate played a new three-man defensive system in Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat by Germany in Dortmund.

But the 46-year-old wants his players to adapt against different opponents.

“It’s not certain we will play the same way. It depends on the opposition and how we think we can hurt them,” he said.

“We have got the flexibility to play a number of different ways and it’s important our players feel able to do that.

“We have to be adaptable as we go through the next 18 months. We need to be able to change quickly within games as well as at the start of games. It’s a key skill for us to develop.”

‘Players and fans need to be great ambassadors for the country’

England team pose ahead of friendlt against Germany in Dortmund<!–

There will be a minute’s silence and a pre-match wreath-laying ceremony for the victims of the Westminster attack in central London on Wednesday, while the stadium’s arch will be lit up in red and white and England will wear black armbands.

Tributes will also be paid to former England manager Graham Taylor who died in January.

Terminally ill five-year-old Bradley Lowery will be mascot, and Southgate has urged players and supporters to represent England in the right way on what will be an emotional night at Wembley.

“We know how important the national football team is for the feeling of the nation and it’s a great opportunity for everybody to pay their respects and to show that as a country we go on,” said Southgate.

“Generally our support is excellent. Unfortunately we have some who were chanting things the other night that were unacceptable. We would prefer to focus on those that support us well and get behind the team. We’ve got a sell-out crowd and we’re grateful for the support.”

Hart to captain England

Joe Hart<!–

Joe Hart has kept a clean sheet in all four of England’s World Cup qualifiers

Gareth Southgate confirmed goalkeeper Joe Hart will keep his place in England’s starting XI and captain the national side for only the second time in his career.

The 29-year-old previously wore the armband under Roy Hodgson in a 2-0 defeat by Spain in 2015.

Despite his loan move from Manchester City to Serie A side Torino, Hart has continued to impress Southgate who said Sunday will be a good moment for the most capped member in this England squad.

“I had to think seriously because we have a squad with some emerging leaders,” said the England boss.

“I’ve spoken about sharing the responsibility around the squad, and even some of the youngest players in the squad have been able to talk openly around the squad this week. Joe has shown great maturity in the way he has recovered from his own disappointment last summer.

“He’s playing well for his club, his performances have been excellent, and he’s respected in the group. Some people question having a goalkeeper as captain but I had Jack Butland in the Under-21s, and you’re looking for professionalism throughout the week, not just on matchday.”

England have had four captains in their last four matches, but Wayne Rooney (unselected), Jordan Henderson (injured), and Gary Cahill (suspended) are all unavailable.

Southgate ‘a breath of fresh air’

Ryan Bertrand and Gareth Southgate<!–

Ryan Bertrand made his England debut in a 2012 friendly against Italy. He has gone on to win 11 caps

Southampton left-back Ryan Bertrand has praised the impact Gareth Southgate has made on the England squad in such a short space of time.

Southgate was made manager on a permanent basis in November following Sam Allardyce’s departure after only 67 days in charge, and there has already been “a slight change” compared to previous managers according to Bertrand.

“He’s installing belief within us and responsibility to express ourselves. He’s really given us the chance to show people what we can do,” said the 27-year-old.

“He’s made a big difference in a short period. A lot can get lost if it’s just one voice you’re hearing and one person’s perspective on things. It’s a team game and sometimes players’ input is vital in a constructive way.

“From the first day he took charge he came across really well. His ideas are very current and he’s right into the mindset of where football is right now.”

Lithuania hoping to do an Iceland

Edgaras Jankauskas<!–

Lithuania boss Edgaras Jankauskas knows all about upsets. He was part of Jose Mourinho’s Porto squad who beat Monaco in the 2004 Champions League final

Lithuania manager Edgaras Jankauskas is hoping his side can take inspiration from Iceland and haunt England with another upset.

The 42-year-old’s Lithuania are currently ranked 107th in the world, 93 places below England.

“Iceland would be a great example to follow, but it will be an extremely tough game for us,” said former striker Jankauskas.

“There are many examples where not necessarily the favourites win the game. We know we play against top, top players, representing the best league in the world.”

Jankauskas believes England haven’t yet made the most of the quality of players in the Premier League.

“In my opinion of course England has to achieve more than it has done recently,” he added.

“But we know probably the reasons why that happened – because the Premier League is the best league in the world, it’s very famous and has the very best foreign players coming to play there. That can push the local players to the side a bit.”

‘Exciting times’ for Rashford

Marcus Rashford (right) with Gareth Southgate<!–

Marcus Rashford scored on his full England debut, against Australia last May

Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford came on for the last 20 minutes of the game in Germany, earning his seventh England cap.

The 19-year-old has made just 11 Premier League starts this season, but says he is benefitting from the experience of training with international team-mate Wayne Rooney and former Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“It’s a massive influence having those type of players around the building,” Rashford told BBC Radio 5 live. “Being at a club like Manchester United and playing for England, there are always going to be top players around you and it is important to learn from them.

“Having him [Rooney] just there, his presence around the squad is a massive influence and not just for the young players but for all the players.

“[Zlatan] didn’t have as much success in the national team as he probably would have liked but his mentality towards club football is massive and something all the young players can learn from.”

Rashford has made just one appearance for England’s Under-21 side, in which he scored a hat-trick against Norway in September.

However, he is open to the possibility of representing his country at this summer’s U21 European Championships in Poland.

“It is up to the coaching staff and the managers to decide if I go to that,” he added. “But if I do go, I’ll be approaching it with the same attitude as I do to the seniors.

“It is exciting times. Getting tournament experience is massive, as long as everything is aiming towards the long-term objective.”

Match stats

  • England have not lost a qualification match since October 2009, going 33 without a defeat since then across World Cup and European Championship campaigns.
  • The Three Lions have kept a clean sheet in five of their past six competitive matches.
  • England defeated Lithuania twice in qualification for Euro 2016, winning 4-0 at home and 3-0 away with all seven goals being scored by different players.
  • England are one of two sides yet to concede in European World Cup qualification, along with Germany.
  • Fiodor Cernych has scored in three of Lithuania’s qualification matches for the 2018 World Cup to date – all of them have been the first goal of the game.
  • Lithuania have lost four and drawn two of their past six qualifiers away from home.

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