Declan Rice praised the “desire” shown by England during their victory against Italy on Thursday night.
The visitors won 2-1 in Naples, Rice opening the scoring before Harry Kane became England’s all-time leading goalscorer when he extended the lead from the penalty spot.
Gareth Southgate’s side dominated the first half but were pushed back after the break, debutant Mateo Retegui pulling one back as England defended resolutely following Luke Shaw’s late red card.
It was the first time England have won away to Italy since 1961 and marked Southgate’s 50th win as manager.
Rice thrived in the midfield battle and believes England showed two different faces to seal victory in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier.
“There was a lot of pressure on us to perform, I think a lot of people were watching and wanted to see a statement performance. I think you got that in the first half,” the West Ham skipper told BBC Radio 5Live.
“I think we completely dominated the game, they couldn’t get near us and we should have been three up.
“It wasn’t like we dropped off a cliff, I think it’s from the moment we kicked off in the second half, they blocked one of the passes that we tried to play forward and straight away we knew as a team it wasn’t going to be the same Italy side, they were going to come out with more aggression, press and not let us play as many passes.
“I think we showed that side to us that maybe England sides haven’t shown over the years, that desire, that willingness to defend, block shots, defend crosses and it was a real solid performance in the end.”
Rice spoke on the eve of the game about the “harsh” criticism of his game from high-profile pundits – former midfielders Graeme Souness and Roy Keane among them.
“To put on the performance and score and do the best I can (was pleasing),” he added.
“Every time I put on the shirt, I just want to play well and I’m really lucky I have got a stable back four behind me who love playing and passing the ball to me.
“So I think it’s something I can still keep definitely improving and keep dictating the play. I had a lot of touches on the ball, and I loved it. So I’m looking to now take that into Sunday.”