Gareth Southgate insists England were the better team and should have won the game against Croatia on Friday night.
England played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw with their World Cup semi-final foes in group A4 of the Nations League at an empty Stadion HNK Rijeka.
Marcus Rashford was guilty of missing two guilt-edged opportunities for the Three Lions, while both Harry Kane and Eric Dier hit the post. The game was played behind closed doors, as part of UEFA sanctions against Croatia, and the lack of atmosphere seemed to play a part in the lack of urgency in the game, with Harry Kane describing the siutation as ‘weird’.
However, Gareth Southgate refuted any suggestion that the empty stadium had a detrimental effect on the players’ mentality.
He said (via Sky Sports): “It doesn’t actually make a lot of difference to me, I thought the application of the players though was superb.
“The application of the players was superb. There was no let-up in their work ethic throughout the game and defensively they were really strong.
“In the second half we were by far the better team and should’ve won the game.
“They showed good enthusiasm to play and our performance was really good. The only disappointment was that we did not take the chances that we had, but I’m really pleased with the way we played.”
England’s stalemate against Croatia, whilst not the most enthralling, did provide an opportunity for debuts.
Speaking about the performances of Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell, both of whom won their first caps for the Three Lions, Southgate said: “Both very good.
“Ben was excellent, his defending was composed. He didn’t dive in, his use of the ball was excellent. He should be proud of his performance.“
“Jadon had a good impact when he came on.”
England and Southgate’s next test comes on Sunday as they face A4 group leaders Spain, who demolished Croatia 6-0 in their last Nations League fixture.