Gareth Southgate believes that his England team have gained more respect in other countries than at home for the way they have transformed their fortunes and style of play.
England had not won a tournament knockout game in a decade before Southgate took charge in 2016 but then reached their first major final in 55 years in Euro 2020 after playing in the semi-finals of both the World Cup and the Nations League.
They have only dropped two points in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup and can close in on a spot in Qatar by beating Hungary at Wembley on Tuesday.
And Southgate, who inherited a side who had been beaten by Iceland in Euro 2016, said: “I think across Europe we have gained a lot of respect. When I travel in Europe and talk to European coaches there is probably a greater recognition of what we have done and how we have played than there is here. That is always reassuring because you want the respect of your peers.”
England beat Andorra 5-0 on Saturday but Southgate is set to make a host of changes, including recalling Harry Kane. The captain is one of only six Englishmen to score 40 international goals and is three behind the late Jimmy Greaves, who got 44.
Southgate added: “When you put that scoring chart and that other five names, it is a reminder of how much Harry has already achieved and I know it is more important to him that the team has got to two semi-finals and a final.”
Phil Foden pressed his case to start with a starring role in Andorra and Southgate admitted that he will be criticised, whoever he omits. “I have a headache and I commit a crime every time I pick a team,” he smiled. “We have so many good players and such strong competition for places.”
Foden and Kane are among four Englishmen on the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, along with Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount, who savoured his presence in a group that also includes Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski.
England player ratings in 5-0 win at Andorra
“It was special,” said the Chelsea midfielder. “To see that and be alongside those names, it is a dream, for all the years you work hard and dedicate, it shows it all pays off.”
With Harry Maguire injured, Tyrone Mings is set to partner John Stones in the centre of defence, just as he did when the Manchester United captain was not fit to face Croatia and Scotland in the summer. Mings subsequently admitted that he struggled with his mental health in the tournament, feeling the country had doubts in him after shaky displays in friendlies.
Southgate said: “I think this was a bit of performance anxiety. There is always that doubt as a player if you have not been in that situation before, you don’t know if you can do it. There is a lot of pressure on young people. He dealt with two really high-profile and difficult games when he started.”
England will play further qualifiers in November and Southgate is against proposals by Fifa’s head of global football, Arsene Wenger, to have either one or two longer international breaks a season.
Southgate added: “There can be tweaks to the calendar that would help everyone. If there is only one per year I don’t understand that as a concept from Fifa. If you are a player and you miss that one month, then you don’t have an international career at all that year, that doesn’t seem to make sense to me at all.
“I gave some opinions to Arsene when he showed me his ideas. But the calendar needs joining up, we can’t just keep adding.”