sport news Gareth Southgate has brought England a long way... now they need to take a big ...

Gareth Southgate mulled over a question about whether England's fans should have bothered booing Virgil van Dijk on Thursday. 

Surely such provocation only makes the best players perform even better? Southgate grinned as an obvious answer had sprung to mind.

'Well, I'm happier they're booing the opposition now, rather than our players, which they were at the start,' he said. 

Gareth Southgate needs to ensure that England take the next step at Euro 2020

Gareth Southgate needs to ensure that England take the next step at Euro 2020

'We're making progress! I remember driving through the streets of Malta and some of the songs they were singing that night … well, if Virgil has to take a bit, then fair enough.'

He was recalling the dirge of a performance against Malta in September 2017 when fans deserted the team, walking out of a display after 70 minutes, reckoning a night out on the Mediterranean Island a much better bet than watching this England. 

That is the context for any criticism that comes Southgate's way this weekend. England have now become a team that fail in semi-finals.

England were left dejected against Holland but Southgate insists they are making progress

England were left dejected against Holland but Southgate insists they are making progress

On Sunday they face Switzerland in their second successive third-place play-off. This represents an enormous step forward.

England lost their way again on Thursday in the inaugural Nations League semi-final against Holland, losing 3-1 after extra-time. 

They looked like being on the verge of something — they were a VAR call away from getting over the line — yet imploded and in even more spectacular than they did against Croatia at the World Cup.

Yet, given that the run to this semi-final, which meant beating Spain and Croatia, was much more difficult than getting to the World Cup last four, this is light years ahead of the last 23 years of England performances.

Gareth Southgate says he and assistant Steve Holland are committed to the England cause

Gareth Southgate says he and assistant Steve Holland are committed to the England cause

Kyle Walker and Harry Kane in training as England prepare to take on Switzerland

Kyle Walker and Harry Kane in training as England prepare to take on Switzerland

And Southgate and his assistant Steve Holland are committed to making good the mistakes against Holland and putting them right at Euro 2020 where their next semi-final — should they make it — would be at Wembley.

Southgate's confidence that sidekick Holland will be around to support him is significant. Chelsea are in the market for a manager or coach willing to work despite a transfer ban. 

That explains why Holland, who was at Stamford Bridge as an assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho and , is on their shortlist. 

They need a man who knows the club and the raft of talented academy graduates on whom they will probably have to rely next season. Yet Southgate feels he would know by now if Holland was about to leave.

'We've discussed pretty much everything,' said the manager. 'Not absolutely everything but most things. So unless there has been something and he's going to wait until we're finished out here…' he added, light-heartedly. 'For sure we'd discuss everything and we we'd be very much

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