England manager Gareth Southgate says he is “surprised” 36,000 people are allowed to attend Saturday’s Nations League game in Hungary despite UEFA imposing a spectator ban.
Thousands of children will now be inside the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Saturday night for England’s opening Nations League fixture, but there will also be 3,600 adults in attendance.
The Hungarian FA has to stage five games behind closed doors after being disciplined by both UEFA and FIFA for repeated racist abuse from the stands, but UEFA rules allow for an unlimited number of U14s to attend the game – with one adult given access for every 10 children.
England’s players were racially abused by Hungarian spectators the last time they played in the Puskas Arena in September last year – incidents that contributed to the UEFA punishment in the first place.
England’s busy June
- June 4 – Hungary (a)
- June 7 – Germany (a)
- June 11 – Italy (h – behind closed doors)
- June 14 – Hungary (h)
“We’re all surprised but we’re inviting children into our stadium [against Italy at Molineux on June 11], so I wasn’t really clear on the rules. I don’t know what the figure should be,” Southgate said at St George’s Park on Friday.
“We’re got to make sure we’re consistent in our beliefs, the stand we take as a team, that we’re united in it being unacceptable. Once we’re administering sanctions it’s gone too far anyway.”
He added: “I would imagine Hungary would feel the same way that we do about having restrictions on the home game – that they won’t want it to happen again.
“We have made our feelings clear on where we stand on inclusivity and our feelings in terms of racism and its unacceptability.
“Hopefully the young people in the stadium will realize why this opportunity has happened. We have got to keep doing the right things and setting the right example.
“I think everybody learns from every experience they’ve been through. I know our players just wanted to focus on football.”
England captain Harry Kane, who scored during that 4-0 win in Budapest on September 2, hopes the squad are able to produce a positive performance regardless of the circumstances.
”We put in a fantastic performance that night in a really tough environment,” Kane said.
“It’s down to UEFA to decide what is the best punishment. The most we can do as players is play to the best of our abilities. Try and put on a good performance and try and get the three points.”
Foden misses England training due to illness
On the pitch, Southgate will be without Phil Foden for England’s Nations League games with Hungary and Germany after the Man City player tested positive for Covid-19.
Foden has been sent home, but Southgate says he should be available for the games against Italy and Hungary at Molineux.
Southgate said: “Phil Foden has tested positive for Covid so he has had to leave.
“Hopefully he will be able to meet up when we come back from Germany. It depends on his symptoms and how his breathing is. It affects everyone differently.”
Southgate revealed defenders Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi are injured and will miss out against Hungary, while Raheem Sterling is a doubt having missed some training sessions.
“Fikayo and Marc Guehi arrived with injuries but are progressing well. They won’t be involved in tomorrow’s game but might be OK for Germany.
“Raheem has missed a couple of sessions.”
The remaining 23 players trained as usual at St George’s Park on Friday, with Sterling, Kieran Trippier, James Ward-Prowse and Trent Alexander-Arnold all involved despite joining the group a day later than the rest.
England reached the semi-finals of the inaugural Nations League in 2019 but finished third out of their four-team group last year. This time around, they face Germany, Euro 2020 winners Italy and Hungary in their League A group, with the winner going on to reach the final four again.
Southgate’s side will face all of their group opponents, including two games against Hungary, in a bumper 10-day schedule from June 4-14, with only two more competitive internationals to follow in September before the England boss names his side for the World Cup in Qatar.