England manager Gareth Southgate is not given enough credit for the job he has done, says midfielder Kalvin Phillips. England play France in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday (19:00 GMT), with 52-year-old Southgate having already led the Three Lions to the 2018 semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final.
“I think people underestimate how good a manager Gareth Southgate is,” Manchester City player Phillips said. “I have been with England for three years and he has been amazing.” Southgate began his reign as England manager in October 2016, winning 49 and losing 13 of his 80 games in charge since.
But the defeat by Croatia in the last four of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, followed by another by Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final, led to questions about Southgate’s ability to get the most out of his talented squad.
Further concerns were raised during a poor Nations League campaign earlier this year, particularly after a humiliating home thrashing by Hungary where England fans chanted ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ at the manager.
England have since recovered to reach the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar, with Southgate earning credit for his tactical decisions that led to a 3-0 win against Senegal in the last 16.
Now his credentials will be put under scrutiny again when his side face defending champions France in Doha. “We didn’t have good results in the summer but you can put that down to a few reasons,” said Phillips, who has played under Marcelo Bielsa and Pep Guardiola – both internationally revered coaches – at Leeds and Manchester City.
“How he has nurtured this team to winning games and one of the best countries in the world at playing football. A lot of people don’t give him credit for that. “He has got very tough decisions to make.
He has unbelievable players that he has to leave on the bench. “I understand it is a very hard position he is in, but he has been unbelievable since I’ve been with England. He is an unbelievable man-manager.”One of Southgate’s biggest tasks this weekend is how to nullify the threat of France’s in-form forward Kylian Mbappe.
Mbappe, 23, is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals in four games and has been involved in each of Les Bleus’ past seven goals in Qatar. While England will have to pay plenty of attention to Mbappe, midfielder Mason Mount says it will not distract England from using their own attacking strength.
“Mbappe is very dangerous. When you play against players like this you maybe give a bit more focus on them than usual because you know what they can do and how they can hurt you,” the Chelsea player said.”But we are ready for that challenge.
We know what we can do and how we’ve been playing. “We need to continue that form because it can be frightening at times if we are at the top of our game and scoring goals. I think scoring 12 goals in the tournament so far is right up there. “We are in a good place and confident in how we have played.
The performances have been top class and now obviously this is our toughest test.”