Southgate happy with team's display and Kane's confidence

England captain Harry Kane scoring the second goal in their 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria on Saturday. The Three Lions will play their final pre-World Cup friendly against Costa Rica on Thursday.
England captain Harry Kane scoring the second goal in their 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria on Saturday. The Three Lions will play their final pre-World Cup friendly against Costa Rica on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Gareth Southgate praised his team's slick approach play and the unselfish contribution from his captain Harry Kane, as England showed signs that they are finding some attacking bite going into the World Cup in the 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria.

Although England have managed only 25 goals in 17 fixtures under Southgate, and scored from a set piece and a goalkeeping error against the Nigerians, there was promise in the combination play mustered by Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli on Saturday.

The Three Lions scored through Gary Cahill and Kane, before Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi pulled one back for the Super Eagles.

The link-up play by his forwards has left Southgate optimistic this team can unsettle opponents at the tournament in Russia.

"What I liked about the interchanges and the unselfish running was, wherever the spaces were, they seemed to smell them and find them," said the England boss.

"The guys are intelligent enough to work those solutions out, and have the technique to do that. I was pleased with that.

"There was a lot of unselfish one-and two-touch play. With a bit better decision-making, we'd have had more than two goals."

Kane, captaining the side for the first time since officially being appointed for the tournament, took his tally to six goals in five games while wearing the armband.

"His belief in what's possible, his belief in being able to score every time he plays… but he's also an unselfish player," added Southgate.

"That's the best possible impact you can see, if your centre forward is playing in that way."

Southgate added he would decide by today whether to give Jack Butland a start as England goalkeeper for the final pre-World Cup friendly against Costa Rica on Thursday, but was also pleased with Jordan Pickford's performance against Nigeria.

And, despite Sterling's booking for a dive, Southgate claims the forward justified his decision to protect the troubled England star.

Sterling had to apologise to his England team-mates after turning up for their training camp a day late following a flight mix-up on his way back from a holiday.

Sterling also endured criticism for unveiling a new tattoo of an M16 assault rifle on his calf that he said was a tribute to his father.

Southgate had considered dropping Sterling for the Nigeria clash but, after what the England manager perceived as unfair criticism of the tattoo, he decided it was right to stand by his man.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Southgate happy with team's display and Kane's confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe