Gareth Southgate admits his second-half substitutes did not have the desired effect after the England manager was criticised for taking Jack Grealish off in the 1-1 draw with Hungary.
England moved a step closer to automatically qualifying for next year’s World Cup, but were held to a draw at Wembley on Tuesday night when John Stones cancelled out Roland Sallai’s penalty.
Starting with a 4-3-3 and both Mason Mount and Phil Foden ahead of Declan Rice in midfield, Southgate opted to switch the system after the break, but after bringing Grealish off for Bukayo Saka and replacing Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for Tammy Abraham and Jordan Henderson, England were unable to find a late winner.
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The decision to haul off Grealish in the 62nd minute in particular surprised supporters and pundits alike, with Gary Lineker calling the Manchester City forward “comfortably the best player on the pitch” and Ian Wright adding on ITV: "Jack Grealish, disappointing to see him go off because he was the one player who did have the spark."
Explaining his decisions, Southgate said: "We wanted to try to get a spark. We'd struggled to create many clear chances and hoped freshness at that stage may have been able to produce that.
"We changed the system because we were a little open in counter-attacks and we had to solidify from that to start with. We hadn't been opening them up with 4-3-3, and so with two 10s and wing-backs we wanted to try to pose them a different problem. But we didn't create any more chances than we had been.”
Phil Foden of England during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between England and Hungary
Image credit: Getty Images
England controlled possession against Hungary, who scored with their only shot on target, and Southgate said he will have to think about the balance of the team after the experiment did not quite come off.
He added: "It was a disappointing performance. Full credit to Hungary, I thought they caused us a tactical problem. We weren't fluid and I didn't think we played at the level we needed to play.
"It's difficult to pinpoint. We'll go away and think of the balance of the team a little bit, but individually, we can do better as well and we made lots of simple mistakes with the ball.
"I think we have to accept that we dipped below our usual levels. That was a surprise, but it was a night where individually and collectively, we didn't hit the heights we have been… We didn't quite do enough to win the game.
"We didn't create as much as we would have hoped, but we have to give Hungary credit to that. We lost a little bit of positional discipline at times so there's a lot for us to reflect on and work on.”
England host Albania then travel to San Marino next month, knowing four points will be enough to finish top of Group I and reach Qatar.
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