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England dig deep in pointless cause – but greater tests are in store | Sean Ingle

The players looked jaded against the Swiss and should have been on the beach after an impressive season

On a soporific summer’s day in Guimarães one word reverberated in the mind like a mantra. Why? Why were England playing in one of the more pointless matches in international football history, when they should have been on the beach? Why were they also forced to play extra time in a third-place play-off rather than going straight to penalties? And why – given all that puff and manpower – did Uefa not even deign to give them a medal ceremony? Instead England’s bronze medals were given to them in a bag in their changing room afterwards.

That says a lot about how Uefa viewed this Nations League play-off. And while England’s and Switzerland’s players cared more, they also approached the game with a certain realpolitik. So while Gareth Southgate’s players locked arms during the shootout, giving the impression that it mattered greatly, when Jordan Pickford dived to his right to give England victory no one rushed over to bundle him over. Instead there was just light applause, an acknowledgment of a job well done rather than a major achievement unlocked.

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