England reaching the World Cup semi-finals in Russia was a massive achievement for an inexperienced squad and also a relatively inexperienced boss at senior international level.
Prior to the tournament, there were little expectations that the Three Lions would make much of an impact on the tournament. However, they did and the expectations grew amongst fans, as did the excitement about the team’s potential.
On Saturday night, a 2-1 defeat to Spain at Wembley rather dampened the excitement. The game was another harsh lesson for the inexperienced England team.
Spain showed a more clinical edge
England started brightly and took the lead through an excellent goal from Marcus Rashford. However, the visitors were leading at half time courtesy of goals from Saul and Rodrigo.
In terms of chances, Luis Enrique’s side did not create that many of note. However, the ones they did create they buried with a ruthless efficiency. Both goals were poor for the Three Lions to conceded, but Spain deserves credit for taking their opportunities.
England, on the other hand, had a number of chances that went begging in both halves of the game. The best opportunities fell to the aforementioned Rashford, who saw efforts saved by Manchester United teammate David De Gea in the Spain goal.
In truth, though, the youngster should have done better with at least one of his chances, one of which he fired straight at De Gea. I hope that the United forward will learn from his misses and it will make him a better finisher in the future.
Still better with the ball
Spain have become the masters of using the ball well in the last two decades. When La Roja Furia needs to keep a result they can slow the pace down to a walking pace and trust each other not to lose the ball.
Even without the retired David Silva and Andres Iniesta, the visitors still have midfielder maestros like Thiago and Isco, who are beautiful to watch at times. They have such good control that they hard to dispossess.
With England searching for an equaliser, Spain displayed that ability to keep the ball expertly and dropped back into an excellent shape.
Never looked out of the game
The visitors got lucky deep into stoppage time when De Gea collected the ball over substitute Danny Welbeck only to drop it at the feet of the striker who knocked it into the net. The referee rather strangely disallowed the effort, despite replays showing that the striker did not foul the United goalkeeper.
The fact that England could have taken a draw from the game shows that Gareth Southgate’s team were never out of the game. The home side overcame a difficult first 20 minutes in the second half to look the more likely team to score in the second period.
There was never a feeling that England were out of the game or completely outclassed. The home side will feel that they deserved a draw from the game. They may not have taken anything from the game points-wise, but they have learnt a few things in a game that was a game lesson for those novice international players.
England host Switzerland in a friendly match at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday night, in a game the Three Lions are favourites to win. In reality, though Switzerland will be another good test of this young team, who have come so far in the past few months.
Did England deserve a draw against Spain?