England’s sensational display in the first half says everything about how much our football has developed.
Gareth Southgate fielded England’s youngest starting XI since 1959. These players have been brought up watching Spain winning the World Cup and two European Championship with a brand of incisive, passing football.
Last night, England went into Spain’s backyard determined to beat them at their own game whenever possible. At times, they embarrassed them. Spain were naive in pushing up too high and England punished them.
England showed how much they have developed in beating Spain 3-2 on Monday evening
The Three Lions’ display in Seville saw them beat their hosts at their own passing game
Gareth Southgate is clearly using his personal experiences to mould this team.
He once told me when we were away with the national team that England spent so much time running after the ball that they did not have enough energy to do anything with it when they were in possession.
I don’t see that in his team. Every player is comfortable on the ball. There are options all over the pitch. England have players with good technique and pace to burn.
Look at the build-up to Raheem Sterling’s first goal. There were 17 passes in the move and every England player touched the ball. There is supreme confidence in possession throughout this team — especially in centre backs Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire.
Raheem Sterling was just one of the numerous England players to shine in Seville
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was quite magnificent in setting up two goals, finding Harry Kane with a ridiculous pass for the first goal and punting to his captain for the second.
After half-time it became a test of character for Southgate’s youngsters and Pickford seemed to lose his head a little. He gave away the corner from which Spain scored and was fortunate not to concede a penalty after being careless on the ball.
That was the moment England needed a senior figure to have a word with him. This group have very litle experience of seeing out a game from such a commanding position.
Spain, who had scored 12 goals in three games under Luis Enrique, were always going to hit back. But the way England held on will have pleased Southgate as much as the sublime first-half football.
This team is still learning. It was without doubt the most impressive performance of Southgate’s managerial career.
Harry Kane and Jordan Pickford applaud the travelling England fans on the final whistle
I really enjoyed that tackle from Eric Dier in the first half on Sergio Ramos in the Spain box. With that challenge, Dier was saying: ‘Our defending begins in your penalty area.’
He had been tasked with looking after Sergio Busquets but seeing Ramos on the ball five yards from goal went to press him. It summed up England’s desire to win the ball.
Eric Dier’s crushing tackle on Sergio Ramos set the tone for a committed England display
Marcus Rashford showed no sign that he had been affected by those two misses in Croatia. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The Manchester United striker only had one touch in the opposition box but made it count. That cool finish to put England 2-0 ahead did not suggest he is devoid of confidence in front of goal.
Rashford was a constant threat down the left-hand side. He and Raheem Sterling prevented Spain’s full backs from getting up the pitch and this allowed England to be so utterly dominant in the first half.
When England played with a back three, they were outnumbered on the flanks. A back four allows them to be far more threatening.
Marcus Rashford put his Croatia woes behind him to score at the Estadio Benito Villamarin