ENGLAND manager Gareth Southgate believes the bitter disappointment of losing a second semi-final in 12 months will be the fuel his side needs to take the next step at next year’s European Championships.
After a 3-1 defeat to The Netherlands in the Nations League last four on Thursday, Southgate’s men claimed the consolation prize of third place by beating Switzerland 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw dominated by England in Guimaraes.
“I think for me the significant step is the level of disappointment that we haven’t left here going to the final and winning the trophy,” said Southgate.
“There is a real determination for all of us that we recognise now you don’t get many opportunities as an international team and we’ve got to make sure we really strive to take the next step over the next couple of years.”
Jordan Pickford was England’s penalty hero once more as after years of disappointment in shootouts, Southgate’s side have now won two in the past year after also edging past Colombia in the last 16 of last year’s World Cup.
Pickford scored as England were flawless from the spot before saving from Josip Drmic to secure a 6-5 win in the shootout.
“I was a bit nervous taking my penalty but I’m not nervous saving them,” said Pickford. “We practice them consistently and I always pick my spot and always seem to score, but I had never taken one in a real game.”
After the disappointment of gifting the Dutch two goals in extra-time on Thursday, there were far more positives for Southgate despite England’s profligacy in front of goal.
England hit the woodwork four times, while Callum Wilson had a late winner in normal time ruled out by VAR.
Southgate made seven changes with six of those involved in last weekend’s Champions League final returning.
Harry Kane was restored as captain and nearly made an impact inside two minutes, cheekily chipping Yann Sommer, but the Swiss goalkeeper just touched the ball onto the crossbar.
However, it was the inclusion of Trent Alexander-Arnold that made the biggest difference.
The Liverpool right-back showed why he may soon overtake Kyle Walker in Southgate’s pecking order with a series of the inviting deliveries that have become his trademark at club level.
Raheem Sterling did not make a clean connection from Alexander-Arnold’s first dangerous cross before Dele Alli met the second with a powerful header but could not keep his effort down.
England nearly got the helping hand they needed after half-time when Fabian Schaer turned Danny Rose’s fine low cross off the inside of his own post.
Kane was eventually substituted having again struggled to make an impact in his third appearance since returning from a two-month injury layoff.
Wilson replaced the England skipper and thought he had won the game five minutes from time when he bundled home after Alli’s header came back off the bar.
However, just as in the defeat to the Dutch in Thursday’s semi-final, England saw a goal ruled out after a VAR review for a foul earlier in the move by Wilson.
England continued to dominate in extra-time, but still could not find a way past the exceptional Sommer.
Another wicked Alexander-Arnold cross picked out Alli and his header was saved at full stretch by the Borussia Monchengladbach ‘keeper who then got back up to block Sterling’s follow-up effort.
Sterling also hit the post from a free-kick in the second period of extra-time, but England finally got their reward in the shootout.
Harry Maguire, Ross Barkley, Jadon Sancho, Sterling, Pickford and Eric Dier all found the net before Pickford denied Drmic.