As many would have expected at the start of the campaign, England will finish the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers as the leader of Group C, and the Three Lions did just that by collecting 20 points out of a possible 24 during the process, ending the qualifying round of the tournament by drawing North Macedonia 1-1 at Toše Proeski Arena last night. Gareth Southgate’s England managed to secure a come-from-behind draw against their opponents in the Matchday 8 fixture, ensuring that they completed their 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers endeavours in Group C with an invincible run of six victories and two draws.
Southgate’s England Forced a Draw Against North Macedonia with an Own Goal
Coming into the game, England won all but one match in their previous seven Matchdays in Group C, but since they have secured a place in the Finals at Germany next year, Southgate opted for a different approach in his starting Three Lions in the final two rounds of the qualifying campaign. In the game versus North Macedonia at their home, captain and all-time leading goal scorer of England Harry Kane started from the bench and only came on around the hour mark for the Three Lions.
The home side broke the deadlock in the 41st minute, when a penalty was awarded due to Rico Lewis’s foul in the penalty box. Enis Bardhi’s eventual spot kick was impressively saved by Jordan Pickford, but even the no. 1 for the Three Lions could not prevent Bardhi’s following effort, with the 28-year-old smashing in his 15th international goal in 57 appearances for North Macedonia.
North Macedonia were looking forward to complete a famous upset over England, until fortune finally turned against them in the 59th minute, after Jani Atanasov was forced to commit an own goal during a corner by Harry Kane’s first involvement of the match. The 1-1 score line stayed till the final whistle of the match, securing an unbeaten record in eight matches in Group C of the 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifiers for England.
Not the win we wanted but an unbeaten qualifying campaign and top of the group. Bring on the Euros in the summer! Thanks for all the support 🦁🦁🦁🏴 pic.twitter.com/XWYqWq2Ha6
— Harry Kane (@HKane) November 20, 2023
Southgate on North Macedonia 1-1 England: “Mentality Was Excellent.”
Head coach of the Three Lions Southgate was satisfied with his team’s performance last night, he said: “I thought the performance was good, mentality was excellent. It was difficult with the way that they defended and the pitch not easy to get the perfect final pass. But I thought there were some excellent performances within the game. I didn’t think that was a penalty. The one before might have been, so maybe that evened itself out. I’ve zero to say about (The VAR) which probably tells you everything.”
The gaffer also highlighted Lewis’s impressive debut for England despite his early hiccups in giving away a penalty: “His performance and then his reaction to what I know will have been a disappointment for him, but we’re not looking at him for being at fault in any way. His composure with the ball was outstanding and he should be really proud because we are very, very pleased with what he did. We thought Rico throughout the whole game was excellent. We didn’t feel he had anything to come back from but I know sometimes as a player you might feel that. But we thought there was no crime, so we were pleased with everything he did.”
England secured their places in the Finals at Germany when they beat Italy 3-1 at Wembley two Matchdays ago. The victory also meant they have revenged on the loss they suffered at the same stadium in the UEFA Euro 2020 Final. Click here for the match details.
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Kyle Walker Captained England for the First Time
A notable moment happened during the match was of course Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker skippering his country for the first time in his career, in which Southgate is delighted about. “It was a nice moment for him to captain his country. He’s really grown in terms of his leadership. I know he’s thriving on that with his club and that will be a special moment in his career as well.”
The 33-year-old defender echoed his manager’s sentiments and called the captaincy experience for England a “Fantastic moment for himself and his family”. “I think after the qualification we had it would always be tough coming here, We dug in and got a point, wanted to take three but things happen in football. It was a fantastic moment for myself and my family,’ he added while describing his captaincy experience.”