Gareth Southgate praises England’s character


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Gareth Southgate has praised the character of his England players as they took a giant stride towards World Cup qualification after a 2-1 victory over Slovakia at Wembley on Monday.

The Three Lions had to show great mental strength after falling behind early in the match, but goals from Eric Dier and Marcus Rashford secured the victory and they are now five points clear at the top of their qualifying group, with just two fixtures left to play.

Southgate believes his side reacted superbly to going behind and insists they thoroughly deserved their victory, particularly based on their second-half performance.

“We didn’t start the game well but I was pleased with the way the players reacted on the field,” Southgate told the BBC.

“They got themselves into better positions. We were stretched in the first 15 minutes or so.

“Great credit to the players for staying in the game and then in the second half we were in control. We didn’t give them space to play.”

The former Middlesbrough boss reserved special praise for Manchester United forward Rashford, who netted his second international goal.

“Rashford showed everything he has,” Southgate added.

“At times he has to do better but his work on the ball, the maturity of his performance and his ability to go past people was devastating to the opposition, and lifted the whole crowd.”

England can secure their place at next summer’s World Cup if they beat Slovenia at Wembley in October.

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