Gareth Southgate has hailed his England side after they held Brazil to a 0-0 draw at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.
Speaking to ITV Football, Southgate said his side spent the majority of the match on the defensive, but he was nevertheless delighted with what he saw:
“We’ve played the best two teams in the world and kept two clean sheets which gives us something to build on” @England boss Southgate reacts https://t.co/zU2wVaMvJG
He said, via MailOnline’s Sami Mokbel:
“In terms of heart, resilience and spirit it was up there with anything I’ve been involved in.
“We couldn’t get hold of the ball and keep it. Tonight we just showed resilience, guts and some outstanding defending and I’m incredibly proud.
“We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying and we’ve played the best two teams in the world and not conceded.”
Per BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty, he added on BBC Radio 5 live: “It gives me plenty to think about. We are in the early stages of piecing this team together and it gives me huge heart. We took some brave decisions and, goodness me, the young players have rewarded me with some top performances.”
The manager elected to start Joe Gomez, Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek against the Selecao, with the former putting in a man-of-the-match worthy effort with a composed and assured performance at the back, despite Brazil deploying a full-strength side that included Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho.
Dominic Solanke—who had a chance to break the deadlock late on but miscontrolled the ball when it fell to him at close range—and Tammy Abraham also came on as substitutes.
Southgate also discussed England’s lack of a permanent captain, and he hinted he could follow the Brazilian model of rotating the armband around the team:
Our man @gabrielclarke05 asks Gareth Southgate if the England captaincy could keep rotating: https://t.co/MyrmAUOb1t
The friendly was the Three Lions’ second goalless stalemate in succession after picking up the same result against Germany last Friday.
That may not foster too much excitement ahead of the World Cup next year, but for England to keep out the two top-ranked teams in the world is a real positive, particularly with a number of inexperienced players.
What’s more, while England failed to score in either game, they were lacking Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling, who have bagged 30 goals between them this season.
Former England international Phil Neville was positive about the team after the match, per BBC 5 live Sport:
When a fan called up to criticise @England, it was too much for @Fizzer18…
So too was the Chronicle‘s Mark Douglas:
Never really been convinced by Southgate as England manager but he’s been really bold with call ups and giving youth a chance. The team has look disciplined & motivated against good benefits. His call ups might benefit the next man more so kudos. Let’s see what the draw brings..
Given the Three Lions’ recent performances at international tournaments, it’s important to temper expectations—they were humiliated by Iceland at the UEFA European Championship last year and failed to escape the group stage at the 2014 World Cup—but it’s a fairly strong note to end the year on.
England will take on the Netherlands and Italy in their next two friendlies when international football rolls around again in March, which should provide more useful tests for Southgate and his squad.
Given neither have qualified for the World Cup and both are at their lowest ebbs for some time, England should be targeting wins.