‘They were harsh on themselves’: Half-time debrief helped lift England to win

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Gareth Southgate was pleased to hear voices raised in the England dressing room as “stern words” at half-time against Switzerland helped deliver a first victory in four games.

England were at risk of sinking to their worst ever sequence of defeats having lost their World Cup semi-final to Croatia, a third-place play-off to Belgium and Saturday’s Nations League date with Spain.

A much-changed starting XI, containing only two players who lined up at Wembley four days earlier and several with precious few Premier League minutes under their belt, were fortunate to reach the break level at the King Power Stadium after Xherdan Shaqiri hit the post.

A player-led inquest followed and, nine minutes after play resumed, Marcus Rashford’s smart volley ensured a 1-0 win.

“We always encourage them to have a voice. It’s important they feel close enough that they can get on to each other,” said Southgate.

“They were frustrated by the first half. I wasn’t in there at that moment because we always give them the first three or four minutes to themselves.

“We have to make sure that doesn’t boil over but it was quite calm by the time we got in there.

“That’s a good sign there’s some leadership in the group. They recognise when they want to be better.

“Today they were harsh on themselves.”

The view from the camp was equally welcoming of the lively mid-match debate.

Man-of-the-match Danny Rose told BBC Radio 5Live: “We could have been two or three nil down at half-time. It’s great we can all shout at each other and tell each other to improve like we did.

“In the end, we are over the moon to keep a clean sheet and get back to winning ways.”

Harry Maguire, who received a warm welcome on home turf, also revealed that Southgate had not quite played the passive observer.

“The gaffer had a stern word with us,” he told Sky Sports.

“There were a few words spoken between the boys at half time.”

By full-time the picture was brighter, with hugs and handshakes greeting the result.

Rashford took the lion’s share of the praise, having won the match for his side with his second goal in four days following his openeing strike against Spain.

The Manchester United forward played second fiddle to the absent Raheem Sterling in Russia and is not guaranteed a starting spot at Old Trafford, but has reinforced his credentials as a game-breaker at international level this week.

“We were very keen that he had the opportunity, we were determined to give him some match minutes,” said Southgate.

“He’s a big part of our future. We think he’s a fantastic talent with a great mentality. We’ve really talked to him a lot about being in the penalty box more, higher up the pitch and both of his goals have come in those areas.

“His work for the team was fantastic and he’ll feel very confident going into the games coming up. It’s a real breakthrough for him.”

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