Soccer

Gareth Southgate issues plea to England stars over Hungary abuse before Andorra clash

In pictures: Hungary v England

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England boss Gareth Southgate has instructed his players to avoid inciting hate mobs unnecessarily ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Andorra at Wembley. The Three Lions will be expecting to deliver another crushing defeat after thrashing Ukraine on Thursday evening, with Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Declan Rice all on target in Budapest.

The result saw England maintain their 100 per cent record in the World Cup qualifiers for next year’s tournament, but the match was overshadowed by a torrent of abuse from the stands.

Sterling was pelted with cups after finding the net for England’s opener before his fellow goalscorers were subjected to the same fate.

The 26-year-old and Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham were also targeted by vile racist chants during the encounter.

Some England players responded to the hostility by attempting to bite back, with Rice pretending to drink from a cup thrown in his direction at one stage before Jack Grealish followed suit.

Although Southgate was pleased with his side’s performance against Hungary, the England boss has issued a reminder to his squad to avoid winding up opposition fans and continue doing their talking on the scoreboard.

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“I think we needed to be a bit careful in how our interaction with the crowd was the other day,” Southgate told reporters.

“We all recognise certain things that happened weren’t acceptable but also we ran a risk of inflaming some of those situations.

“The players managed that quite well but the boys have to have at the back of their minds that humility. Yes, we were playing well and got a good result, but let’s keep our professionalism and focus.

“We have to play these teams again and we don’t want to give them any additional motivation by any of our actions.”

Southgate’s side will be hoping for another win over Andorra on Sunday evening to put themselves in pole position for World Cup qualification.

England currently sit top of their group after four wins from four matches, while Andorra’s only victory came against fellow minnows San Marino on Thursday.

Looking ahead to the fixture, Southgate insisted that he will not allow England’s stars to take their foot off the gas between now and the World Cup in order to stay ahead of their competition.

“Our aim is consistent progress and performance, sustainable success,” he explained.

“If we want to be serious contenders for the World Cup, we cannot waste a moment. We cannot miss an opportunity to improve. We must push ourselves.

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“We have to have a desire to get better. Myself as a coach, the players, the staff in the roles they do.

“Because the teams that didn’t do so well in the summer will be licking their wounds and looking at everything. There’s a risk that they look harder for opportunities to improve.

“If we have any complacency, that would be an error because, yes, we’ve got talent and have shown positive performances and earned good results, but that can disappear very quickly.

“The level of competition in Europe alone is extremely high and you can see ten teams across the last three competitions have reached the semi-finals.

“Add Brazil, Argentina and the top South American countries into that and it highlights the difficulties of staying in that upper echelon.”

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