England manager Gareth Southgate has put his side’s surprise 1-0 defeat to Hungary down to the temperature at the Puskas Arena on Saturday, rather than fatigue after a long season.
The Three Lions suffered their first 90-minute defeat in 18 months as Dominik Szoboszlai’s second-half penalty secured a victory over an England side who failed to create anything of real note and looked far from their best.
The tired performance in the first match of a four-game international break came just a few days after Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne labelled the Nations League ‘glorified friendlies’, as he hit out at the lack of rest afforded to players after a tiring season – but Southgate did not think fatigue was to blame.
“I think we knew it was going to be a very difficult game,” he said. “We’ve had difficult games with them, with Hungary, as other big nations have had. They’re very difficult to break down.
“We probably lacked a half-yard I would say, in terms of our real incisiveness. I think that was more the heat than the length of the season.
“The other factor is, we haven’t played together for three months and we have had three games in six months.”
Southgate also admitted that he may have made a mistake with his team selection as he chose to use the match as an experiment for the World Cup.
“Across these four games, we are trying to balance having a look at things, finding out about players and trying to win,” he said.
“Maybe I didn’t quite get the balance of that right today but we’ve learned a lot from it and I have to accept you are not going to win matches and you’ve got to ride the criticism that comes from it with the learning that should help us further down the line.
“We are disappointed because if we’re going to be a team that gets to the final stages of a World Cup, these are the types of games that we have to win.
“We have a pretty good idea of what our strongest team probably is. Quite a few of those players are coming not from an ideal preparation.”