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England World Cup 2022 qualifiers: Three Lions must start again in Hungary

England have gained confidence but we have to start again – Southgate
Date: Thursday, 2 September Time: 19:45 BST Venue: Puskas Arena, Budapest Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website and app.

Gareth Southgate says England must “start again” in a “journey” that he hopes will see them build on their impressive performance at Euro 2020.

Southgate’s side reached the final of the Euros in July, but lost in a penalty shootout to Italy at Wembley.

They travel to Hungary on Thursday with three wins out of three in qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“The team has gained confidence from what they achieved and the progress they’ve made,” said Southgate.

“But equally we have to start again. The journey to having the chance of another run like that in a tournament is under way.

“Mentally it’s a good test for us. Away from home, 60,000 fans and a very good team we’re playing against. We have got to be at our very best.”

England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 was their best performance at a major international tournament since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966.

It also represented continued progression for the side under Southgate following semi-final appearances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2018-19 Nations League.

With a young squad at his disposal, Southgate will go into the upcoming qualifiers with the option of picking all those who excelled in the summer.

In addition, Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford has received his first senior call-up, while right-back Trent-Alexander Arnold returns to the squad after missing Euro 2020 with a thigh injury, with midfielder Jesse Lingard also recalled to the squad.

The only doubt for the game in Budapest is Manchester United forward Jadon Sancho, who has a knock.

Patrick Bamford ‘always believed’ England senior call would come

‘Pivotal games’

Hungary finished bottom of their group at Euro 2020, but impressed against tough opposition, especially in a 2-2 draw with Germany which they were six minutes from winning.

They currently sit second in World Cup qualifying Group I behind England.

After Thursday’s game, England then face an easy game on paper, at home against Andorra, who have yet to pick up a point from their three qualification games.

However, Southgate is predicting a tough game both in Budapest and London.

“I think the two away games this week are both going to be hugely challenging,” he said.

“They’re good teams. They’re obviously pivotal games in terms of qualification.

“You can’t predict what your hardest games are going to be, but we know that Hungary are a very good side and sit second in the group.”

‘We are focused on the match’

The Hungarian FA is facing sanctions from European governing body Uefa for alleged racist and homophobic chanting by their country’s fans during the Euros.

England players have experienced racist abuse from home fans before, most notably in a Euros qualifier in Bulgaria in October 2019.

Southgate refused to be drawn on what action his players would take if they received similar abuse in Budapest.

“We always prepare the team for everything really,” he added.

“We’ve done that this week, but we know we’ve had our own issues at home, so we’re not really focusing on other countries, we’re focusing on ourselves and making sure we get our own things correct.

“I don’t think we should speak hypothetically. We know the experience we had before [in Bulgaria], but we’re going to Hungary preparing for a game against a crowd that will get behind their team and we’re looking forward to the challenge of the match. Everything else is speculation really.”

Defender Harry Maguire echoed these sentiments, saying: “To speak about something in the future that might happen is a bit unfair.

“We are focused on going to Hungary and playing in front of a full crowd, a great atmosphere and against a team that have shown they are more than capable at the Euros.”

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