GELSENKIRCHEN (Germany), June 17 — Gareth Southgate insisted England would benefit from “suffering” in a tense finish to their 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024 yesterday.

Southgate’s side made a lively start in Gelsenkirchen as Jude Bellingham headed them into the lead after 13 minutes.

England were in complete control until half-time, but lost their way after the interval and needed key saves from Jordan Pickford to hold on in their Group C opener.

It was hardly the eye-catching performance expected of the pre-tournament favourites, especially after hosts Germany laid down a marker with their demolition of Scotland on Friday.

But Southgate was adamant England could take pride from the way they kept Serbia at bay.

“We had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us. To defend the box the way we did was really good for us,” he said.

“I was really pleased with a lot of the play. Second half we didn’t keep it as well as I would have liked but to get the win is very important.

“Pleased we had to show a different side and show a resilience to defend our box because as a group that builds a spirit. We defended very well as a unit.”

Southgate conceded England have room for improvement after their inconsistent performance.

But he said he never bought into the hype that had England installed as the leading contenders to lift the trophy in Berlin on July 14.

“We can be more efficient in the way we played in the first half which will also help us moving forward,” he said.

“This team is still coming together. Everyone is expecting us to waltz but there is a lot of hard work ahead.

“We’ve had a very complicated run in to all of this but the spirit of the group was on show tonight.”

Southgate’s decision to play Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in a defensive midfield role alongside Declan Rice brought mixed results.

Alexander-Arnold was caught in possession at times, but Southgate praised his contribution to Bellingham’s man of the match display.

“I was really pleased. Jude has such a prominent role and Trent had to cover a lot of spaces. It’s not a role he’s done a lot at all,” he said.

“He showed great discipline, fabulous passing range he has, we’re learning with him in this role but he showed some of the attributes he can bring. It’s great to see him come through that test.” — AFP