A young England side acquitted themselves well in a 0-0 draw in the friendly against the world champions, Germany, at Wembley
There is such a sense of inferiority sometimes when it comes to facing Germany it might come as a surprise to learn that, in their head-to-head encounters, England can actually match the current world champions. Both teams have won 13 times against one another. This was the sixth draw between the two sides and it must be mildly encouraging for Gareth Southgate that his experimental side could hold their own against the side that enjoys the view from the top of Fifa’s world rankings.
Not that anyone should get too carried away just yet. Germany eased off in the second half and this was a night when Joachim Löw, like Southgate, took the opportunity to involve some younger players.
Overall, though, England did reasonably well on the night when Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Pickford and Tammy Abraham all made their England debuts and Joe Gomez became the fourth player in Southgate’s teams to be making his first international appearance at this level.
Loftus-Cheek was named as the official man-of-the-match but if that award had been given out at half-time Pickford would surely have been the recipient.
Abraham found it more difficult during his hour on the pitch but England’s new kids on the block coped well in the first goal-less draw at Wembley since 2010 and the home team really ought to have won it with the final kick of the match when Harry Maguire headed a free-kick down to Jesse Lingard inside the penalty area. Lingard was only eight yards but it was a wild finish and the final whistle came moments later.
This was England’s least experienced starting line-up, with a combined total of 101 international appearances, since Ron Greenwood’s side took on Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground in May 1981 and the most-capped player, Phil Jones, lasted only 25 minutes before going off with an injury.
Jones had heavy strapping around his left thigh, indicating that the Manchester United defender might have started the game with an injury and, if so, it was tempting to wonder what José Mourinho must think about his player being used in those circumstances.
His place was taken by Gomez and with such an experimental line-up it was probably inevitable that there were a few spells when England looked just what they were: a team that was trying to find its feet, unbeaten for eight years in humdrum qualifying groups but often stuck in spells when that record can feel slightly deceptive.
Southgate should be absolutely clear now that Pickford is not fazed by the big occasion but, on the flipside, he should not be too thrilled there were so many occasions when England’s goalkeeper had to rescue his team. In the first half alone, Timo Werner ran free three times. Pickford kept him out every time and looked supremely confident all night.
All of England’s debutants should be better for the experience but there were times when the team missed the reassuring presence of Harry Kane in attack. Abraham missed the ball completely when Jamie Vardy offered his striker partner a golden chance to get his England career off to a dreamlike start.
That was not the only time when Abraham looked unsure of himself but his eagerness to make an impression, combined with Vardy’s directness and speed, did make it a challenging night for the Germany defence.
Loftus-Cheek was operating as an attacking midfielder and had the impudence to slip the ball through Marcel Halstenberg’s legs in the first half. Nutmegs aside, however, the best forward moves that period came at the other end. Leroy Sane struck the crossbar with one shot and Jones was injured making a goal-line clearance to deny the same player. England were fortunate that Julian Draxler fired the rebound over.
The encouraging part for Southgate was the frequency with which his team managed to find space behind the Germany defence. Vardy ran through the middle at the end of the first half, played in by Loftus-Cheek’s best pass of the night, but it was an undistinguished attempt to lob the goalkeeper. Vardy also had a headed chance soon after the interval and on that occasion it was a fine save from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
In previous games, England’s fans had amused themselves by showing off their origami skills and throwing paper planes down from the stands.
There were a few here, too, and one period in the second half when parts of the crowd lit up their camera-phones, as if we were watching an Elton John concert rather than a football match. For the most part, however, there was enough happening on the pitch to keep the crowd’s attention.
It was certainly an eventful game from the moment Maguire aimed a careless backpass to Pickford inside the opening minute and let in Werner for his first chance of the night.
Sane was a constant menace, swapping flanks and demonstrating why he has become such a dangerous player for Manchester City. Germany had also used the night for experimentation and it was just a pity, perhaps, that Draxler resorted to diving to try to win a penalty.
There is plenty to admire about Löw’s team but Kieran Trippier was entitled to be annoyed.Read more at theguardian.com