Harry Kane insisted England should be proud of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign despite a flat end to the year with a 1-1 draw in North Macedonia.
England topped their group, finishing six points ahead of Italy, to book their place in Germany with two games to spare.
Kane told Channel 4: “Difficult game, we knew it would be and it was tough against a decent side playing on a pitch that is difficult to play our style of football on.
“We went 1-0 behind against the run of play with a soft penalty. It was good to get on the pitch. It was important for us to get a goal back and a shame we couldn’t get a second.”
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
England equalised seconds after Kane came on as a substitute and pressured Jani Atanasov into scoring an own goal.
“I’m pretty sure it was an own goal,” he added. “If anyone was going to get a second it was us.
“We can be really proud of how the qualifying campaign has gone.”
Kyle Walker captained England from the start, with Manchester City team-mate Rico Lewis making his debut a day before his 19th birthday.
“I think after the qualifying we’ve had it was always going to be tough here but we dug in and got a point,” Walker told Channel 4.
“It’s football. It’s been a short week, two games when we’ve already qualified. It’s no excuses, we know we should be taking three points from here but it’s something to work on for the future.”
— England (@England) November 20, 2023
Lewis was harshly penalised for the penalty which led to North Macedonia’s opening goal.
Enis Bardhi saw his spot-kick saved by Jordan Pickford but was first to the rebound to lash his side ahead
“The man to my right has probably received an unfair decision there,” added Walker. “He deserves this cap and happy birthday for tomorrow.”
Lewis said: “Overall I’m very happy – not with the decision that went against me – but I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better. I’m not really focused on any tournaments, just on myself and what I can do to get better.”
Boss Gareth Southgate thought the penalty decision against Lewis was “really harsh”.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 20, 2023
“He was excellent,” Southgate told Channel 4. “His composure with the ball and the way he responded to that really harsh setback, he’s a super footballer and he was excellent.”
It was not the end to the qualifying campaign Southgate wanted, but he added: “The really big results were in March against Italy and Ukraine. It meant coming here tonight was a completely different test.
“I thought that given we had already qualified and everything had been achieved the mentality of the players was excellent.
“The quality on the ball was good on a difficult pitch. Just that final pass or finish was difficult to find. But I thought there were lots of positive performances.”