IT WAS supposed to be his A-Team but Gareth Southgate’s England looked far from a crack squad against Hungary.
The boss sent out his strongest available XI for the World Cup qualifier at Wembley on Tuesday night.
But far from waltz to another multi-goal drubbing of their Group I opponents, the Three Lions were made to work hard for their 1-1 draw.
They did so with a misfiring captain in front of a far-from-full Wembley stadium.
For most of the night the noisiest fans in the building were the travelling Hungarian ultras.
And they did little to suggest they’d improved their behaviour after the disgusting scenes of racist abuse and crowd chaos that greeted England in Budapest last month.
In fact, they disgraced themselves early on, booing as England took the knee and scrapping with police seconds after kick-off.
Despite the noise from the away contingent, England started confidently as they looked to follow-up on their 5-0 thrashing of Andorra three days ago.
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That result was secured by Southgate’s so-called B-Team – few of whom started the Euro 2020 final back in July.
Possession was not a problem for the full-strength hosts, with the gifted Phil Foden and Mason Mount partnering Declan Rice in a midfield three.
But Hungary always looked dangerous on the break – lacking quality in the final third but willing to go forward at pace when given half a chance.
And they took the lead against the run of play when an otherwise assured Luke Shaw blotted his copybook by giving away a needless penalty with a high foot against Loic Nego.
Roland Sallai buried the spotkick to send the away contingent into a frenzy.
Interviewed in the programme, Southgate-favourite Mount hailed the ‘family’ this England squad has become.
And they would need all of that familial spirit to bag the equaliser as the red shirts of Hungary put their bodies on the line.
England pressed and were clearly superior on the ball, but they needed a set-piece to pull things level.
The Man City connection told as Foden zipped in a free-kick and John Stones pounced with a poacher’s finish at the back stick.
But it was England’s usual poacher who seemed so anonymous on home turf.
Skipper Harry Kane was on course to break a whopping FOUR scoring records if he stuck his name on the scoresheet.
His club form appears to have followed him across north London though as his hunched shoulders and frustrated expression belied the struggles he’s enduring at Spurs.
Things picked up for the striker after the break as he at least registered a shot on target, but without Kane’s goals this England XI looked short of options.
Southgate switched the system in the second half and brought on the bright Bukayo Saka.
But Jack Grealish did not look pleased to have been taken off and there was little fluency about England as they tried to force the issue.
The supposed B-Team managed five against Andorra – maybe it’s time for a shake-up in the ranks.
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