‘Outstanding’ defensive display hailed by Southgate
Gareth Southgate hailed his England lionhearts after they made it successive goalless draws against the teams ranked first and second in the world, Germany and Brazil.
Substitute Fernandinho hit the post for Brazil, but England managed to keep another clean sheet thanks to impressive performances from John Stones, full debutant Joe Gomez and goalkeeper Joe Hart.
England manager Southgate declared himself even more pleased with the draw against Brazil than he had been with the result against Germany last Friday.
“They were two completely different performances,” said Southgate. “On Friday night, we used the ball really well, tonight we looked anxious with the ball as a consequence of Brazil’s threat.
“But the defensive performance, the resilience and spirit were absolutely outstanding. I’m probably more proud of tonight against what I think is the best team in the world, full team out. We’ve come out with a really creditable result and found so many positives. As a group what they have given will stand them in good stead.
“They are the best two teams in the world because they have been built over a period of time. Their experience is way ahead of ours, so we are having to approach things differently. Brazil are pretty close to the finished article and we are at a different point in our journey.”
On the defence in particular, Southgate added: “The back three were all excellent. Joe Gomez got man of the match and rightly so. John Stones in two games has shown his defensive attributes, taken pride in defending and that’s a significant step for him. And Harry (Maguire) has been a real plus. He grew in confidence and grew into his game.
“They will not face more difficult tests. The system has worked well, we have limited both teams to very few clear-cut chances and could have pinched the game with the chances at the end. We could have put young players in and got beaten by four, but we didn’t.
“We have backed up the best defensive record in European qualifying by keeping clean sheets against the best teams in the world.”
Having blooded a number of young players over the two games, Southgate believes England are now regaining the backing of the country’s football fans.
“We will take huge belief in what we have done,” said Southgate. “I think and hope the English public have seen these boys have given absolutely everything.”
Impressed: Gareth Southgate thinks this draw was even better than the one with Germany