Positive England give Gareth Southgate reason to smile

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Gareth Southgate was pleased to see his England team playing with a smile as World Cup preparations continued with a deserved win in Holland.

With just three months until the finals get under way, pressure is starting to build as players look to prove their worth and the Three Lions manager attempts to hone his side.

Eyebrows were raised by some of Southgate’s choices in the penultimate friendly before announcing his squad for Russia, but those selected repaid their manager’s faith with a positive performance in Amsterdam.

Jesse Lingard’s proved the difference as England ran out 1-0 victors against one of the most notable World Cup absentees, giving Southgate a first win in a high-profile friendly at the sixth time of asking.

“Really pleased with the quality of our football,” the England boss said after beating Holland.

“The tactical awareness the players showed. I think Holland changed system three times within the game, and we were looking to see how our players would respond and the identified it each time.

“They managed to make use of the overloads we had in the right areas, so I was pleased.

“I knew we’d got pace and energy in the team, but I was really, really pleased with the composure especially playing through the first two thirds of the pitch.

“At times a bit more quality in the final third was needed, but I think we deserved the win.

“A well-taken goal which was started by our goalkeeper, and what looked a pretty clear penalty (on Marcus Rashford) to me as well.

“For me, lots of individual positives and I think probably the most pleasing thing is the players looked like they enjoyed their football tonight.

“They enjoyed (having) the ball and I was really pleased to see that.”

Jordan Pickford did well in his audition for the No.1 jersey on just his second England appearance, while Raheem Sterling looked sharp in attack despite a lack of cutting edge frustrating England once again.

The Three Lions also reacted well after Joe Gomez was forced after just 10 minutes, with the enforced change not proving a problem for a backline that surprisingly included right-back Kyle Walker in the central trio.

“I think in a back three, we knew the position would suit Joe Gomez when we played him there in November and it as the same for Kyle.

Netherlands England Soccer
Joe Gomez made an early exit (Peter Dejong/AP)

“And actually as well as his pace being a tremendous asset to the defence, if you watch City play it’s kind of where he ends up now anyway.

“Their left-back projects into midfield, Kyle doesn’t maraud forward like he did at Spurs. He supports from behind and in my view I saw enough in those moments to feel that he could adapt to the position in a three.”

Walker’s understanding with Manchester City team-mate John Stones was a bonus and gives Southgate a welcome boost as he looks to pick a World Cup squad boasting a variety of versatile players.

Netherlands v England – International Friendly – Amsterdam ArenA
Ronald Koeman’s Holland tenure got off to a losing start (Nick Potts/PA)

“Defensively we played quite well, but didn’t create many chances,” the former Everton and Southampton boss said. “And we made some mistakes as well.

“And clearly there is a difference in quality between the Netherlands and England.

“You always hope for a match in which you perform better and create more chances (than this).”

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