Southgate praises young guns

England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek brushing off Germany's Mesut Ozil in a goalless friendly at Wembley on Friday. The 21-year-old debutant put on an impressive display in the middle of the park against the world champions to earn the Man-of-the-Ma
England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek brushing off Germany's Mesut Ozil in a goalless friendly at Wembley on Friday. The 21-year-old debutant put on an impressive display in the middle of the park against the world champions to earn the Man-of-the-Match honours.PHOTO: REUTERS

Loftus-Cheek & Pickford stand out among England debutants in 0-0 draw with mighty Germany

LONDON • Five months ago, he lamented England's dearth of midfield options.

Gareth Southgate's tone turned from one of despair to delight on Friday after his young and inexperienced team held world champions Germany to a 0-0 friendly draw at Wembley.

With his squad ravaged by injuries, the Three Lions boss handed five players their senior bow, including Man-of-the-Match Ruben Loftus-Cheek and outstanding goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

There were only 101 caps combined in England's starting XI, making it the least experienced in 37 years.

The average age of England's team was 24.5 - in contrast to Germany who could call on over 300 caps among their starters - and it only got younger when 20-year-old Joe Gomez made his debut for the injured Phil Jones in the first half.

They were on the back foot against Germany for much of the first half, but found a way to stop the flow of attacks and had good chances of their own as a Wembley crowd finally had something to cheer after sterile performances during the qualifying campaign.

"It was a proper game tonight. Against top players, you have to be switched on and tactically right, and I thought there were a lot of positives," said Southgate. "There were a few shaky moments early on and their system caused us some problems. But, actually, ours caused them some problems too.

"We showed real composure with the ball and were tactically better without the ball in the second half.

"This is a young group but they're switched on. We're asking them not to just go and play with their hearts and then press in the wrong place, and one of the most pleasing things is that this group are responding to that."

  • England players handed their international debuts against Germany on Friday.

Gomez, Tammy Abraham and Jack Cork joined Pickford and Loftus-Cheek in making their debuts, with the latter particularly impressive against the World Cup holders.

"He's a player I've watched do that from the Under-16 level and despite his size and his appearance and the way he plays, he's not hugely confident at times," Southgate said of the 21-year-old, who is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea.

"Tonight, it took him 10 minutes to have a look around him and think, 'OK, I can do this'. He's got so many good attributes, top attributes, and that's why we put him into the team.

"We believe in him and we believe in the others that we played. I'm really not surprised with what they've done. They've shown that at younger ages and this week in training. There's been an energy about the group."

Germany coach Joachim Low also used the match to look at some new faces and was very pleased with the performance of debutant fullback Marcel Halstenberg

"It was a real test. England have improved since 2014 and have some dynamic young players," Low said after extending his unbeaten run to 20 matches since the Euro 2016 semi-finals.

Germany host France on Tuesday while England play Brazil at Wembley.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Southgate praises young guns'. Print Edition | Subscribe