England manager Gareth Southgate has refused to criticise Marcus Rashford for his profligate finishing against Croatia, insisting he still poses a significant goal threat.
Rashford – who has scored just once for Manchester United this season – has come under fire after he twice failed to beat Dominik Livakovic in the second half of Friday’s 0-0 draw in Rijeka.
Southgate, though, is not concerned by Rashford’s failure to find the back of the net and is encouraged that he is taking up threatening positions.
“I was really pleased he was in the areas to get those chances and his general performance as the game went on, he looked more and more of a threat,” he told a media conference.
“He scored twice for us last month [against Spain and Switzerland] and we love him to bits, so he’ll take more of those chances than not.
“The more important thing for me is we’ve created good chances and the likes of Marcus, Harry [Kane] and Raheem [Sterling], the forwards we’ve got, they’ll finish them. We’ve just got to make sure we’re creating them.”
Rashford will hope to rediscover his form in front of goal when England’s Nations League campaign continues against Spain on Monday – a game Southgate knows will provide a stern challenge for his side.
“Frankly they are one of the best two or three teams in the world and it’s only that the coach left on the eve of the tournament that meant they didn’t fulfil what they should have done at the World Cup, in my opinion,” he added.
“They’ve had some wonderful players who have just come to the end, but replaced those with maybe a bit more energy and pace in the forward areas.
“They’ve got a top coach in charge in Luis Enrique, so it’s going to be a very tough test.”
Spain claimed a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Wembley last month.