This text is sensitive. Try generating new copy.
On Saturday, England national team manager Gareth Southgate made his first change of the tournament, abandoning the 4-3-3 formation that had been his favoured system throughout qualifying, in favour of a back three. The decision, presumably, was made to increase the team’s defensive solidity, but it also produced a series of tactical problems, most notably with the team’s attacking play.
On and off the field, Raheem Sterling is used to leading the way for England. He shouldn’t have to do so under such dreadful conditions as those saw at the Puskas Arena, but one strong positive to emerge from such an abysmal evening is a reminder of what a magnificent talisman the 26-year-old has become.
On Thursday, a significant minority gathered at the Puskas Arena to instill terror via hatred. England’s devastating 4-0 victory, Hungary’s worst home loss in a World Cup qualifier, left them speechless and devastated.
During the build-up, much was made of Budapest’s hostile environment. After instances of racist fan behavior at Euro 2020, Hungary’s next two UEFA matches will be played behind closed doors, but this World Cup qualifier against England was organized by FIFA, and more than 60,000 supporters jammed into their €533 million stadium to create a boisterous environment.
It’s one thing to be rowdy; it’s quite another to be bigoted. The tone was established before the game when England’s players were booed for kneeling, as they had done all summer to make a message against racism.
– Watch ESPN FC every day on ESPN+ (U.S. only) – LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, and more on ESPN+
The length of time that players would continue to make the gesture has been a point of contention. The response here exemplified why they will not give up.
During Euro 2020, England went a long way toward winning the debate. Their warm-up games against Austria and Romania in Middlesbrough were overshadowed by boos from parts of their own fans when they took a knee, but that hostility faded as they progressed to the final.
England’s fortitude was challenged in one of the off-field problems this squad has proudly and boldly addressed under Gareth Southgate’s careful leadership, as the team needs to start over in a footballing sense after the painful final loss to Italy.
Sterling is a passionate advocate for racial equality, and he backed up his commitment to the cause by becoming England’s greatest player at the Euros, scoring three vital goals and leading the team ahead with conviction. After a summer in which he was linked with a transfer away from Manchester City — perhaps as a makeweight in a trade for Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane — he stepped up to the plate with panache here, scoring the game’s first goal 10 minutes into the second half and igniting England’s campaign.
After a drab first half, Declan Rice recovered the ball in midfield, then Jack Grealish supplied the overlapping Mason Mount, who pulled the ball back for Sterling to score first-time from 7 yards out. As Sterling was bombarded with missiles from the crowd, many teammates came around him, including Rice, who picked up one of the plastic cups and imitated sipping from it.
Sterling was too preoccupied with delivering his own message, a poignant one at that. In honor of his buddy, who died lately from COVID-19 at the age of 26, he removed his shirt to show an undergarment with the words “Love you forever Steffie Gregg” inscribed in white letters.
England remained unfazed. Sterling was suddenly in space on the right flank after Kalvin Phillips won the ball back high up the field. He spotted Kane unmarked and decided to send in a cross that deflected off Hungary defender Adam Szalai. Kane was the first to respond, deciding to return home. To add to England’s lead, Harry Maguire met Luke Shaw’s 69th-minute corner, causing one supporter to hurl a flare into the field amid the other missiles.
As he warmed up on the touchline, ITV reporter Gabriel Clarke, who was seated behind the England goal, recorded instances of monkey chants directed towards Sterling and replacement Jude Bellingham. As Hungary’s squad crumbled, its supporters’ behavior deteriorated even worse.
Rice scored a fourth goal with a poor attempt from beyond the box that slid past goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi to seal a win that puts England in charge of Group I after only four games, with a 5-point advantage over Poland and Hungary. However, Southgate’s remarkable accomplishment was overshadowed as he faced questions about another dreadful night for football off the field.
In their 4-0 victory, Hungary supporters attacked England goal scorer Raheem Sterling and his colleagues with projectiles. Getty Images/Eddie Keogh – The FA/The FA
“I’m just getting a sense of what’s occurred since we weren’t really aware of it on the bench,” England manager Gareth Southgate said. “It seems that there have been a few instances.”
“Everyone knows what we stand for as a team, and that’s inexcusable.” Everything has been submitted to UEFA, and now we will have to wait and see what happens next.
“The [players] understand that the world is changing, and that certain individuals who are trapped in old ways of thinking and biases will eventually become dinosaurs as the world modernizes.”
“Hungary’s population is nothing like as varied as ours, so it will unavoidably take us a long time to reach where we need to go. And if other nations do not have the same degree of variety as the United States, it is unlikely that it has influenced their thinking in the same way that it has in ours. We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.”
This is where the lovely game resides. Unlock premium coverage of the world’s best leagues, events, and teams. To watch soccer on ESPN+, sign up today.
• Uzbekistan vs. Sweden, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5 (8:50 a.m. ET) • Spain takes on Georgia (2:35 p.m. ET) • Italy vs. Switzerland (2:35 p.m. ET) • Czech Republic vs. Belgium (2:35 p.m. ET) • Poland vs. San Marino (2:35 p.m. ET) • Armenia against Germany (2:35 p.m. ET) • Egypt vs. Gabon (2:55 p.m. ET)
Southgate’s speech has always had a note of self-admonition, a worry heightened this summer by the crowd disturbance at Wembley before to the Euro 2020 final and the racist abuse three of his own players got online after missing penalties in the following shootout loss.
Regrettably, he has lots of experience coping with this kind of punishing European night. England’s Black players were insulted when beating Montenegro 5-1 in Podgorica in March 2019. Their 6-0 victory in Bulgaria later that year was marred by similar events.
Despite this, England maintained their composure on the pitch to win convincingly on both occasions. Sterling scored twice against Bulgaria and once against Montenegro.
In his last 24 appearances, he has scored 16 goals. In his last 12 Euro and World Cup qualifying matches, he has been involved in 17 goals.
Sterling continues to rise above it all, no matter what is hurled at him.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- southgate england
- england results under southgate
- southgate england manager
- southgate england coach
- southgate continuing education