Southgate: England fans booing Van Dijk instead of own players is sign of progress

The Three Lions boss refused to criticise his side's supporters for booing the Netherlands defender in their Nations League clash on Thursday

Gareth Southgate joked he is glad England's supporters were booing opposition players rather than their own after Virgil van Dijk was jeered during the Nations League semi-final.

Five days on from lifting the Champions League trophy with club side Liverpool, Netherlands centre-back Van Dijk was targeted by England's travelling fans every time he touched the ball in Thursday's match in Guimaraes.

The Dutchman had the last laugh, however, as an own goal from Kyle Walker in extra-time was followed up by Quincy Promes firing home to mean Netherlands would win 3-1 and book their place in the final.

But rather than join any condemnation of his side's supporters, Southgate feels it can be considered a positive that opposition players are being singled out instead of his own men, as was the case during a World Cup qualifier in Malta in 2017.

"I'm happier they're booing the opposition now than when they booed our players when we started," he said ahead of Sunday's third-place play-off against Switzerland.

"We're making progress. Driving through the streets of Malta... if Virgil has to take a bit, fair enough."

Defender Joe Gomez has questioned the mentality of those who picked on his Liverpool team-mate, however, as it had no positive impact on England.

Gomez, an unused substitute in his side's 3-1 extra-time defeat, said:  "I don't know where it was coming from. I hadn't see him do anything wrong. It doesn't pose much benefit for us as a team.

"We get on the ball and play the same way. I don't see the relevance with it. Maybe they were just following on. I don't think it affected us or the way we play as a team."

After suffering a first defeat since September 2018 to miss out on a place in the final, Southgate's men will challenge for the consolation prize against Switzerland, who lost 3-1 to Portugal in the other semi-final.

The Three Lions will then turn their attention to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, as they play host to Bulgaria and Kosovo in October. They are currently top of Group A with six points from two games, three ahead of Czech Republic.