Gareth Southgate was left bemused by England being given medals for finishing third at the Nations League – but not at a presentation.
England beat Switzerland 6-5 on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Guimaraes on Sunday, with Jordan Pickford decisively saving from Josip Drmic after having scored one of his own.
The Three Lions lost to Belgium in a third-place play-off at the World Cup last year, after which FIFA president Gianni Infantino awarded bronze medals to players and staff members.
Southgate was unsure why there was not a similar formal presentation at UEFA’s inaugural tournament.
“I’ve not seen them yet, so it’s quite ironic really that we’ve had to go through another third-fourth play-off and the one we win, we don’t even get them in front of the fans!” Southgate told reporters of his side’s medals. “So, it’s just lobbed in there, lobbed to us.
“I remember some of the guys who were at Liverpool that I played with said that [former manager] Joe Fagan used to throw the medals down the back of the bus in the following pre-season and say, ‘Get on with it, and if you’ve played enough games, take one’, and that probably would pretty much sum up where we’d be at with this.
“The only other medals I guess we’ve been involved with is the Tournoi [de France in 1997] in Glenn [Hoddle]’s time. So, it’s nice that we’ve got some acknowledgement for what we’ve done over the last year. But, I think we’ll all be parking it to one side and looking forward.”
Individual mistakes cost England a place in the final, Netherlands running out 3-1 winners in the semis, and Southgate accepted his team will be disappointed not to end a major international silverware drought dating back to the 1966 World Cup.
“I think for me, the significant step is the level of disappointment that we haven’t left here having gone to the final and won the trophy,” he added. “And that took, I have to say, that took some lifting over the last couple of days for everybody, because none of us were satisfied.
“We think we played fine on Thursday but made ridiculous mistakes, so it was important that we responded today with a high level of performance. The players adapted really well, we changed the shape, and they carried that out really well and we should have won the game.
“We deserved to win the game with the opportunities we created and the number of times we hit the woodwork so the healthy thing for me was that: a good response, some really good discussions over the last couple of days about our dissatisfaction with only getting as far as we have, and a real determination for all of us that we recognise now that you don’t get many opportunities as an international team and we need to make sure that we really strive to take the next step over the next couple of years.”
Switzerland were indebted to goalkeeper Yann Sommer for a string of saves that took the game to penalties, while England hit the woodwork on three occasions and had a Callum Wilson goal ruled out after a VAR check, and coach Vladimir Petkovic accepted his side were made to work hard without the ball.
“It wasn’t an easy game for us. It was a game where we started off well, had a few chances,” Petkovic told reporters. “But England were better in the first half and all in all I’d say that we showed a solid performance.
“We faced a team that had greater possession and sometimes you just have to leave the ball to them. I need to congratulate England on that third place they achieved and maybe next time we will have to practice penalties a little more.”