Barney Ronay at Wembley on 15 November 2017
Gareth Southgate believes England’s hard-won goalless draws against Brazil and Germany have helped repair the bond between the team and its supporters that has frayed at times in the last 18 months.
“I think and hope that the English public have seen that these boys have given everything, they’ve played with pride and passion,” Southgate said after England defended their way to a second 0-0 in the space of five days. “I would hope there’s more of a connection, it felt like there was one there tonight between supporters and team.”
“We’re rebuilding. Brazil are close to the finished article. They’re a settled team and an outstanding team and it will take some team to stop them next summer. But we will take huge belief from what we’ve done.” Southgate was also quick to praise his defence for its work in securing a fourth clean sheet in a row against high-class Wembley opponents.
“The defensive performance tonight and the spirit collectively and some individual defensive performances were outstanding,” he said. “I’m more proud of them tonight as I think we’ve played the best team in the world, with their best team out. And we’ve come away with a really creditable result. We can look at areas to improve but again we’ve found so many positives in terms of players promoted to this level for the first time and performing well, and it’s not gong to get much tougher than it did tonight.”
Joe Gomez in particular won high praise for a composed showing against Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, the 20-year-old’s Liverpool colleague. “Joe has been given the man of the match and rightly so,” Southgate added. “His decision-making was good, and we know his athleticism is a real asset but his calmness in the face of dealing with some high-quality movement and through passes [was very good]. John Stones showed his defensive attributes. He’s looked really mature and controlled the line. He’s taken pride in his defending, which is a significant step for him. Harry [Maguire] has been a real plus.
“They’re not going to face more difficult tests than they have in their last two matches. The system has worked well. They had control of the game tonight no question, but we’ve limited them to very few clear-cut chances. It would have been an injustice but we could have even pinched the game tonight with the chances we had at the end.”