Bukayo Saka scored his first hat-trick of his senior career in England’s 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia on Monday in the Euro 2024 qualifying round.
“He’s there,” Southgate replied matter-of-factly.
Saka excelled in England‘s fourth straight Group C victory, which has put them atop with 12 points despite a bothersome Achilles concern.
“When he broke into the team at Arsenal what struck us was that in a team that were having a difficult time he was performing at a really high level,” Southgate said.
“Then when the team were playing well he was still a key player and performing at a really high level.
“So, that says a lot about his mentality, his ability to deal with pressure. And that’s the environment that we’re in all the time. He’s exceptional to work with.”
“To see the joy on his face, he’s such a popular member of the team. And so humble, works incredibly hard.”
In a front three that social media users called the greatest England has seen in a while, the 21-year-old Saka was joined up front by captain Harry Kane, who scored his nation’s record-extending 57th and 58th goals, and Marcus Rashford.
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“I think for different games, different profiles of players are important, and of course you can never be sure that we’re going to have everybody available,” he said.
“So that’s why nights like tonight, when the team were going well, we said to them at halftime, ‘You have to keep enjoying a night like tonight, you have to keep driving and finish it well’, because it’s not often you have the team at that sort of a moment really.”
Despite what Southgate called “an outrageous” scoreline, Kane did not open the floodgates until the 27th minute.
“That wasn’t really how we were expecting the game to be because there’s no evidence that Macedonia would suffer like that,” Southgate said.
“There’s no evidence that the game in the end would be as straightforward as it was. Certainly in the opening 20 minutes it didn’t work that way.
“So it’s huge credit to our senior players who have set a brilliant tone all week.”
England do not start qualifying matches until September 9, and Southgate is looking forward to the break after an unforgettable season that was cut short by the World Cup in Qatar from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18.
“I’ve said all along, everybody has to collaborate on the calendar because there’s no point us just talking to the Premier League and sorting the FA Cup or the League Cup out, it’s broader than that…
“I don’t like to talk about it at these moments because otherwise there’s every excuse to not perform on a night like tonight.
“The players have shown psychologically we refreshed them, we gave the bulk of them two weeks off. That came with a bit of a risk, but they responded really well.
“And I think psychologically they’re refreshed coming into these games and viewed it as a sort of mini pre-season before they go and have another couple of weeks break.
“I’d be amazed if we have a World Cup in the middle of a season again.”