England’s resilience against Serbia will ‘build a huge spirit’ at Euro 2024

PA Ready, England, Gareth Southgate, Jude Bellingham, Serbia, Jordan Pickford, Gelsenkirchen, Marc Guehi, Berlin, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Crystal Palace, Denmark

England started their campaign with a victory (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

Gareth Southgate says England’s battling win against Serbia in Sunday’s European Championship opener “builds a huge spirit” heading into a tough second group game against Denmark.

The Euro 2020 runners-up made a fast start as the brilliant Jude Bellingham headed them into an early lead in Gelsenkirchen.

But England’s dominant start petered off as Serbia made life hard, meaning they had to dig deep in a narrow 1-0 victory that puts them top of Group C after the first round of fixtures.

It was a solid if unspectacular first step on the road to Berlin and one that Southgate believes will help his squad moving forwards.

“I thought first half we used the ball really well, had control of the game, probably should have scored a second,” the England manager said.

“I think second half, we expended a lot of energy in the first half, and a lot of the players hadn’t had 90 minutes for a while, so I was worried about us energy-wise how we would be.

“I thought that showed a little bit also we didn’t keep the ball quite as well and of course then Serbia have to come because they need the goal, so less control.

“We still had an excellent chance towards the end but pleased that we had to show a different side, that we had to show that resilience to defend our box because I think as a group that really builds a huge spirit.”

The result means England are already well placed to progress to the knockout phase, with a spot in the last-16 assured if they beat Denmark on Thursday evening.

It is a repeat of the Euro 2020 semi-final won by Southgate’s side after extra-time and a match Kasper Hjulmand’s side will be desperate to win having drawn their opener 1-1 with Slovenia.

“Well, a slightly different style of game, so they’ll pose us different questions,” Southgate said.

“We have to use the ball as we did in the first half, really, and we’ll need to look back at their game as well and see whether there are any adjustments to what we need to do.”

From midfield balance to attacking fluency, Southgate has a few things to mull over before the match in Frankfurt.

But talk of defensive frailties has quietened after a solid display as a unit, with Marc Guehi silencing any doubters on his tournament debut.

The 23-year-old Crystal Palace defender did well alongside John Stones in central defence, stepping into absent Harry Maguire’s place impressively.

“I saw the player that plays every week for his club,” Southgate said of Guehi. “Positionally sound, calm.

“Tonight was an even bigger test because stature-wise he’s not one of the biggest centre-backs and there was going to be a lot of aerial balls in the box.

“He dealt with that really well, so, yeah, I thought he transferred what he does with his club on to the biggest stage and he showed what a good player he is.”

England travelled back to their remote Blankenhain base immediately after the match, with 12 players taking part in training on Monday.

Kobbie Mainoo, who came on in the 86th minute, joined non-playing substitutes, with all others – including Luke Shaw, who is recovering from a hamstring injury – doing a recovery session elsewhere.

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