Southgate defends England changes

Gareth Southgate believes he made the right decision in shuffling his pack, despite seeing England lose their 100 per cent record at the World Cup.

England succumbed 1-0 to Belgium in their final Group G encounter, with the defeat pairing Southgate’s side against Colombia in the last 16, in Russia.

With the two nations already booking their places in the knockout round, both managers rotated their squads – Southgate making eight changes to his starting XI.

And while the Three Lions missed out on topping the group and perhaps lost some momentum, Southgate insists it was vital to give his fringe figures some time on the field.

“When you’re a manager you’ve got to make decisions that are right for your group and are right for the primary objective,” Southgate said.

“Sometimes those decisions will be criticised and I understand that. Only one person has to make that decision with the full facts and the intricacies of managing a group and a tournament.

“As a group of staff, we were very clear on what we felt was needed physically, medically and tactically for the benefit of the group.

“We’ve got 20 outfield players that have played in a World Cup and that’s hugely important for the feeling in our camp over the next few weeks.

“Maybe we could have pushed a bit more by putting other players into the game tonight but we still created chances. We had one absolutely fantastic chance to tie the game.

“I had to balance that and I know in some quarters that will be criticised but I’m entirely comfortable with that. Sometimes you have to make decisions for the bigger picture.”