Late goal will irk Gareth Southgate, but England are on the right track

England were just a couple of minutes away from a perfect international break. Having beaten Hungary and Andorra, both by a 4-0 scoreline, Harry Kane’s goal gave them the lead in Warsaw against Poland with just 18 minutes remaining, and it looked as though England were set to take nine points from their three fixtures, with no goals conceded.

But despite holding off much of Poland’s advances, England’s defence was eventually breached, as Damian Szymanski rose high to head home an equaliser two minutes into stoppage time. It was disappointment for the Three Lions and manager Gareth Southgate, but their campaign is still well on track, with 16 points from their first six games. 

England have become adept at winning games that they are expected to win, and the matches against Hungary and Andorra were processions. Even amidst a vociferous Budapest crowd, England dominated and fired in four second-half goals, while the win over Andorra at Wembley provided a chance for fringe players to shine in a game they were almost guaranteed to win according to the football betting site Betfair.

Overall, Southgate should be pleased, but you feel that the late equaliser in Warsaw will have grated with him, mainly because it is not the first time England have surrendered a one-goal lead in a big match. You only have to cast your mind back to the Euro 2020 final in July to recall the last time England paid the price for not holding fast to their single-goal cushion. Despite playing well for large periods of the final against Italy, England gradually lost control of the match and allowed the Azzurri back in, eventually conceding the equaliser and going on to lose on penalties. 

The problem has been occurring for a while now. On two occasions in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup, England threw away leads. The first was in the last 16 against Colombia, although fortune favoured the Three Lions that night as they advanced on penalties. The second was the infamous semi-final against Croatia, where Kieran Trippier’s free-kick set England on their way before ultimately going down 2-1 after extra time.

This is an issue Southgate and his team will need to look into, but it’s important that they take the positives too. The away fixture against Poland was always likely to be the toughest match of the World Cup qualification process, and as long as England avoided defeat it would be a positive result. Coming away with a point means that Poland have not gained ground, and although it scuppers England’s chance of a perfect qualification record, no harm has been done in terms of their status in the football betting tips.

The important thing is that Southgate’s team are on the right path, and in many ways it’s a sign of how far this England team have come that a draw away to Poland is considered a bad result. The team have made huge strides since the 2018 World Cup, and with their place in Qatar all but secured, the question is whether or not Southgate can continue to improve this team and bring home the major international title that everyone craves. 

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