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Serbia national football team
European Championship | Group Stage
Jun 16, 2024 at 8pm UK
England national football team

0 - 1

Gudelj (39'), Tadic (75'), Stojkovic (83')
FT(HT: 0-1)

Erik ten Hag aims dig at Gareth Southgate tactics after Man United speculation

'Southgate is gambling' - Ten Hag attacks
© Reuters
Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag takes aim at Gareth Southgate's tactics following England's nervy 1-0 win over Serbia in Euro 2024.

Manchester United coach Erik ten Hag appeared to aim a sly dig at Gareth Southgate's England tactics following the Three Lions' 1-0 win over Serbia at Euro 2024.

Thanks to a first-half Jude Bellingham header, England kicked off their bid for European glory with maximum points at the Veltins-Arena, where they dominated proceedings in the first half.

However, Southgate's men otherwise carved out little in the way of clear-cut chances despite their wealth of possession, and Serbia gave England a brilliant run for their money in the second period.

The Three Lions spent most of the second 45 with their backs against the wall repelling Eagles attacks, although they did come agonisingly close to a second when Harry Kane's header was tipped onto the bar by Predrag Rajkovic.

Jordan Pickford was only called into action a handful of times, though - most notably tipping a Dusan Vlahovic drive over the bar - but England's display was not one that would have inspired optimism for the remainder of the competition.

England head coach Gareth Southgate on June 16, 2024© Reuters

Ten Hag criticises Southgate's "vision"

Nevertheless, the result was a stark improvement on England's shocking 1-0 loss to Iceland in their final warm-up friendly, and thanks to Denmark and Slovenia's 1-1 draw earlier in the day, the Three Lions sit at the top of their group.

However, the manner of England's display did not evoke positive comments from Ten Hag, who accused Southgate of "gambling" with a one-goal lead while on punditry duties for Dutch television channel NOS.

"It's the vision of the manager [Southgate]," Ten Hag said. "England will take a 1-0 lead, then he [Southgate] decides to start gambling with making his team compact and relying on moments for the remaining minutes of the game."

Ten Hag's dig towards Southgate comes after weeks of speculation about the England head coach potentially replacing the Dutchman at Man United, as the former was expected to be sacked following the FA Cup final.

However, after masterminding a 2-1 win over Manchester City in the showpiece, Sir Jim Ratcliffe made a U-turn on his decision to give the ex-Ajax boss the boot, and he will instead stay on for the 2024-25 campaign after all.

Southgate credits England for 'suffering' to win

England's Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring against Serbia on June 16, 2024© Reuters

While Southgate did not directly respond to Ten Hag's comments, his post-match reaction suggests that the 53-year-old refutes his counterpart's assessment, claiming that he was "really pleased" with several aspects of his side's play.

"Serbia are a strong team. We had to suffer a bit, which I think is really good for us to come through and to defend our box in the way we did under pressure is important for the group. That's the reality of tournaments," quotes Southgate as saying.

"We had good chances to extend the lead and kill the game, which we didn't manage to take. I was really pleased with a lot of the play, especially the first half. I thought we used the ball really well. Second half we didn't keep it quite as well as we need to but to get the win and the start that we have is really important."

Southgate's England have until Thursday to recover from their Serbia exploits before clashing with Euro 2020 semi-final opponents Denmark, where victory could seal a first-placed finish in the section with a game to spare.

The Three Lions boss is only under contract with the FA until the end of the year, but the governing body are apparently keen for him to stay on and manage England at the 2026 World Cup.

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Group A

Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

Q Spain Spain33009
Q Italy Italy31114
3 Croatia Croatia30212
4 Albania national flag Albania30121

Group C

Q England flag England31205
Q Denmark Denmark30303
Q Slovenia Slovenia30303
4 Serbia Serbia30212

Group D

Q Austria Austria32016
Q France France31205
Q Netherlands Netherlands31114
4 Poland Poland30121

Group E

Q Romania Romania31114
Q Belgium Belgium31114
Q Slovakia Slovakia31114
4 Ukraine Ukraine31114

Group F

Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Turkey Turkey32016
Q Georgia Georgia31114
4 Czech Republic Czech Republic30121

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