GARETH SOUTHGATE believes England’s stunning win against Spain can be the catalyst to further improvement.
The Three Lions are making ripples right now, with development team successes and a surprise run to the World Cup semi-finals complemented by a shock Nations League away win last night.
England produced a thrilling first-half display of free-flowing football normally associated with Spain, who conceded three goals in a competitive home match for the first time as the visitors ran amok in Seville.
Raheem Sterling ended his goal drought and grabbed his second after Marcus Rashford netted in a remarkable opening period, with Southgate’s side then digging deep to secure a 3-2 win as Paco Alcacer and Sergio Ramos brought the Group A4 clash to a nervy conclusion.
‘They have a reference of what it was like to play in a stadium like this,’ the Three Lions boss said after overseeing his first victory against a major power at Real Betis’ Estadio Benito Villamarin.
‘There’s a lot of young players so it’s important they have good experiences of playing for England, that they enjoy playing for England, that they feel the way that we want to play.
‘And they should be able to progress from this. But that’s up to us now.
‘We had a really good summer and we had to show signs that we could step forward. We’ve learned a lot this week — it has been a really good week.
‘Two good performances, we’ve tried a new system, we’ve found out a lot about some young players who have done exceptionally well, so I’m really happy with what everybody’s done.’
This week’s switch from a three-man defence to a back four has certainly brought added attacking impetus.
It should have seen them beat World Cup semi-final foes Croatia in a match that somehow ended 0-0 on Friday and it paid dividends in Seville, despite some nervy moments against a side as wily as they are talented.
Southgate made the point that Sergio Ramos and Sergio Busquets have more caps combined than the entire England squad, yet the visitors showed an impressive mentality and street-smart edge that belied their inexperience.
‘Managing the game, there’s different ways of doing that,’ the Three Lions said. ‘There’s obviously things we won’t speak about.
‘But there’s things with the ball, controlling the game, taking the sting out of the game by keeping possession and playing out of the pressure is just as important.
‘And then recognising towards the end, actually we don’t need to risk a short build-up from our goalkeeper — let’s play a little bit longer and our forwards were key to winning the flicks and winning some basics that you have to do to win football matches.’
‘It’s not just about playing attractive football and scoring outstanding goals. You have got to do the nuts and bolts well.
‘We didn’t actually for the two goals we conceded and on another night that would cost us, so there’s still plenty we can do better, and we can improve upon.
‘But it’s always nice to do that on the back of a win.’