England has no illusions: Southgate

Manager Gareth Southgate says England has “no illusions” as to its standing in international football after finishing fourth at the World Cup in Russia.

Belgium won Saturday’s third-place playoff in Saint Petersburg with goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard.

“We are very proud of what we’ve done, but we’re under no illusions as a team as to where we stand,” said Southgate, after his side lost to Belgium for the second time in the tournament.

“We finished in the final four but we’re not a top-four team yet, we’ve never hidden behind that. Against the very best teams we’ve come up short.”

England lost three of its seven matches at the tournament. Its 2-1 semifinal defeat by Croatia prevented it from reaching a first final in 52 years.

No great record

It has beaten just two countries ranked inside the world’s top 20 during Southgate’s tenure, knocking Colombia out on penalties in the last 16 while overcoming a mediocre Dutch side in a friendly.

“I felt it was important to tell the team how proud I was of what they’d done and recognise how far they’d got,” Southgate said, as England matched its fourth-place finish from 1990.

“We also recognised after the semifinal where we stood, which is exactly what we found out again today.

“We haven’t hidden in terms of where we see our progress. We haven’t hidden in terms of what we think needs to improve, but we also leave here having progressed a lot as a team.”

England’s next game is against Spain in September in its opening match of the new UEFA Nations League, a competition introduced to effectively replace international friendlies.

“They’re great opportunities for us to develop, to improve, to try things and look at players.

“We have to just constantly try to evolve and improve. We’ve done that, particularly over the last eight months, and we’ve ended up having a brilliant adventure here.”

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