In the Nations League at Wembley on Sunday, England won a 2-1 victory over top-ranked Belgium, and manager Gareth Southgate thanked his players for keeping steady and seeing their way through a tough, but not always pleasant match.
“It was a great test, just the test that we needed,” he told reporters.
Southgate made nine changes to the side that beat Wales 3-0 and raised questions, particularly by leaving out the game’s man of the match, creative midfielder Jack Grealish, in a friendly match at Wembley on Thursday.
The move paid off, however, with a five-man defense, including three right backs-Kieran Trippier playing on the left, Kyle Walker as the central defender, and Trent Alexander-Arnold in his regular spot-holding Belgium largely at bay.
“They caused us a lot of problems with overloading the large areas down the sides of our defensive block, and we knew that it would happen. But it was hard for the players to solve those problems in real-time, live, so it was a massive challenge to get through that,” Southgate added.
“We defended well and held in, and I think you have to do that against top teams. In the first half, they caused us problems, but at halftime, Gareth gave a great team talk and we went out and gave a good performance to get us a victory.”
Southgate agreed that players have to sweat out for wins sometimes.
“You’ve got to be defensively right on, you can’t be loose in any way, shape, or form, and that’s what the players got on board,” he said.
“They displayed great control, the entire squad. There was a man there to clean up every time a player was beaten.”