Gareth Southgate: England boss refuses to confirm if team will walk off pitch if racially abused in Hungary

England face Hungary at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on Thursday in a World Cup qualifier; capacity crowd expected under FIFA jurisdiction despite Hungary being ordered to play their next two UEFA matches behind closed doors following racist abuse from fans during Euro 2020

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England boss Gareth Southgate says his side are prepared for any racial abuse they could face in Budapest

England manager Gareth Southgate refused to confirm whether his side would walk off the pitch in Budapest if Hungary's fans racially abused England players in Thursday's World Cup qualifier.

Hungary have been ordered to play their next three UEFA competition matches behind closed doors - with one of those games suspended for two years - following racist abuse from supporters and homophobic banners in the stands during their Euro 2020 group stage matches in Budapest.

But a full-capacity crowd of more than 60,000 will be present at the Puskas Arena for Thursday's match against England as the game is being played under FIFA jurisdiction.

In October 2019, England decided to play on in Sofia after Bulgarian fans racially abused Southgate's players in a Euro 2020 qualifier.

Asked whether the team would walk off if they faced racial abuse on Thursday, Southgate said: "I don't think we should speak hypothetically.

Hungary played in front of a full-capacity crowd against Portugal in Budapest
Image: Thursday's match in Budapest will be played in front of a full-capacity crowd

"We know the experience we had before [in Bulgaria] but we're going into Hungary preparing for a game against a crowd that will get behind their team.

"We're looking forward to the challenge of the match and everything else is speculation really."

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Asked whether the players were prepared for racist abuse at the Puskas Arena, Southgate said: "We always prepare the team for everything really.

"We've done that this week, but also we know we've had our own issues at home so we're not really focusing on other countries, we're focusing on ourselves and making sure we get our own things correct."

Budapest and the Puskas Arena are the only Euro 2020 host venue to allow full crowds for games
Image: The Puskas Arena in Budapest has a capacity of 67,000

A homophobic banner was seen in the stands during Hungary's defeat to Portugal in their opening game at Euro 2020 while monkey chants were also heard during Hungary's draw with France.

England defender Harry Magurie said of potential racist abuse: "We speak about different scenarios going into every game, not just Hungary away.

"To speak about something in the future and something that you're predicting might happen is a bit unfair.

"As players we're fully focused on going to Hungary and playing in front of a full crowd and a great atmosphere.

"It's a team which have shown they're more than capable at the Euros, so we're expecting a tough test and we're more focused on the game to try to get the three points to qualify for Qatar."

Sancho a doubt for Hungary clash

Southgate has revealed winger Jadon Sancho is a doubt for Thursday's match after picking up a knock in training.

Jadon Sancho scored 50 goals in 137 appearances for Borussia Dortmund
Image: Jadon Sancho has picked up a 'small knock' ahead of Thursday's game against Hungary

"We've got a small knock with Jadon this morning", Southgate said. "So we are going to assess him. Everybody else I think is fine for the game."

Sancho, who missed a spot-kick in England's Euro 2020 final penalty shootout defeat to Italy in July, made his first Manchester United start on Sunday in the 1-0 win at Wolves.

'Hungary match pivotal to qualifying chances'

Southgate believes England's game in Hungary on Thursday could be "pivotal" to their World Cup qualifying chances.

England top the group ahead of Hungary, and after the clash in Budapest, they face Andorra at Wembley on Sunday and then travel to play Poland on Wednesday.

England's manager Gareth Southgate applauds after the Euro 2020 soccer championship final match between England and Italy at Wembley
Image: Southgate's side missed out on a first major trophy since 1966 this summer after Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy

He said: "I think the two away games this week are both going to be hugely challenging. They're good teams. They're obviously pivotal games in terms of qualification.

"You can't predict what your hardest games are going to be, but we know that Hungary are a very good side and sit second in the group.

"The team has gained confidence from what they achieved and the progress they've made, not only this summer, but over the last four years.

"But equally we have to start again. The journey to having the chance of another run like that in a tournament is under way. We have got to be at our very best.

"Mentally it's a good test for us. Away from home, 60,000 fans and a very good team we're playing against."

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