Southgate upbeat despite 0-1 loss

Nathaniel Chalobah and Jack Butland are downcast after England's 0-1 defeat by Portugal in the Czech Republic. They need to end their 10-match winless streak in the European Under-21 Championship against Sweden to stand a decent chance of progressing
Nathaniel Chalobah and Jack Butland are downcast after England's 0-1 defeat by Portugal in the Czech Republic. They need to end their 10-match winless streak in the European Under-21 Championship against Sweden to stand a decent chance of progressing to the semi-finals.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

UHERSKE HRADISTE (Czech Republic) - Gareth Southgate claimed on Thursday that there was "no disgrace" in losing to Portugal and insisted that England still have a "fantastic chance" of qualifying for football's European Under-21 Championship semi-finals.

England face Sweden, who beat Italy, tomorrow, when they must end a 10-match winless streak in this tournament, stretching back to 2009, to boost their hopes of qualification.

Southgate claimed that he was happy with his players' performance despite a 0-1 Group B loss in which England were second-best for long periods.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Mario scored the game's only goal on 57 minutes with a rebound off a shot that hit the post.

"There were one or two things we could have done better, probably in our build-up from the back, but I thought we looked a threat and defended well as a team," the head coach said. "It was one of those games where one goal was always going to decide it and unfortunately it went against us. We have to move on quite quickly. A defeat can linger, but there is no disgrace at all in the performance.

"The players are disappointed to have lost, and a draw would have been fair. Their goal was cruel, a random series of events.

"We have played the best team in the group tonight and gone close, so we can still have faith in what we are doing. We still have a fantastic chance of getting through this group."

Southgate refused to blame England's defeat on their bad luck with injuries, after revealing that John Stones and Saido Berahino were in tears, having been told they would miss out.

Berahino flew home yesterday after watching last night's match from the stands wearing a knee brace, while Stones will hope that his team-mates can deliver a victory against Sweden to avoid him returning from concussion to a dead rubber against Italy on Wednesday.

Berahino - the top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals in as many games - has been replaced in the squad by Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Benik Afobe.

"You have to adapt and adjust," Southgate said. "In terms of fortune with the two injuries and the deflection for the goal, it has been a tough 48 hours to take, but that's football."

Denmark lead Group A after beating the hosts 2-1.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'Southgate upbeat despite 0-1 loss'. Print Edition | Subscribe