Gareth Southgate felt England heeded his challenge to show they are a “top team” after coming back from a goal down, and a sloppy first three quarters of the game, to secure a respectable draw against Germany.
Harry Kane’s late penalty came amid a flurry of pressure and chances, with England’s tempo noticeably increasing after Jack Grealish’s introduction. It was an improvement on Saturday’s flat defeat in Hungary and Southgate revealed he had thrown down the gauntlet to his squad before their outing in Munich.
“We’ve had some good results at Wembley and wanted to come away from home and get a good result,” he said. “It’s so important that we bounced back from a disappointing result. We challenged the players that a top team doesn’t lose two on the bounce and they’ve responded to that in the right way.”
England wobbled after Jonas Hofmann’s 50th minute opener, which was well merited on the balance of play, and could have conceded again before turning the tide in the latter stages. Southgate was particularly critical of their passing during the first half but expressed his delight at the manner of their recovery.
“To respond in the way they did was fantastic,” he said. “I thought in the balance of the overall game [the equaliser] was well deserved. It’s an important sign for them as much as anything. [We have] seven or eight who got us to a World Cup semi-final, that’s why those players are so important to us because that core of the team put their bodies on the line for each other. On nights like this you have to do that to get a result.” The spot-kick, awarded by VAR after Nico Schlotterbeck’s foul, was Kane’s 50th goal for England. “The finish is exceptional, isn’t it?” Southgate said.
“The pressure at that moment, he trusts his technique, we have huge faith in him. Rightly the fact he’s got 50 goals will be the centre part of the story. But his all-round game, the way he led the line, the way he competed, the way he pressed from the front today, was exceptional.”
Kane described reaching the milestone as “a really nice feeling” and felt England had proved a point. “It was really important to show our mentality,” he said. “And even going 1-0 down, it showed good character to get back into the game and get a result, playing against a good side. [It] shows where we are at.”
Asked whether the impressive Grealish had played his way into starting contention, Southgate struck a note of caution. “At the start of the game, the challenge to the wide players is to attack, defend, try to score goals, a high tactical level and you’ve got to be spot on,” he said. “I think that’s an area Jack can get better at.”