Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed on his senior England debut and earned the Man of the Match award after an excellent midfield display against the World Champions at Wembley. England were encouraging and earned a credible goalless draw against Joachim Löw’s side, who were dangerous in parts but ultimately couldn’t turn their dominance into goals.
Adventurous, skillful and confident in possession. Exciting to watch as usual and refreshingly comfortable, it makes you wonder why England don’t opt to give their youth a chance at a younger age.
Loftus-Cheek was one of three debutants under the age of 24 on the pitch for the Three Lions this evening. Swansea forward Tammy Abraham, on-loan from Chelsea, started in attack with Harry Kane (hamstring) ruled out. Everton’s Jordan Pickford was chosen ahead of Joe Hart in goal and made a string of fine saves to keep the visitors at bay throughout.
Pickford does well and needed to
The first of those was a self-inflicted mistake by Leicester centre-back Harry Maguire, making only his second international start on this occasion. It showed in the early stages, as RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner made a conscious effort to continually torment the 24-year-old whenever he had possession in his own half after squandering possession too easily under pressure early on.
Thankfully for Maguire’s sake though, he gradually grew into the game and was increasingly confident as the match wore on.
The Jamie Vardy-Abraham partnership in attack looked promising at times and despite neither scoring, they combined well to question Germany defensively. Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger in particular was embroiled in a battle with Tammy, who utilised physique and other technical attributes well but was unfortunate not to be rewarded with a goal for his efforts.
Superb Sané comes close
Leroy Sané, who has been in excellent form for Manchester City this season, was agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on two separate occasions. The first, he took advantage of Phil Jones’ sloppy play before firing narrowly wide of the far post. Then, he curled a well-struck shot beyond Pickford but watched as it cannoned back off the crossbar.
Alarm bells began ringing for the hosts, though they didn’t really have much to answer for. Keeping possession and passing with purpose are two completely different areas for England to work on, something that Germany did particularly well and on another day, would’ve punished them for.
Mesut Özil continues to be criticised by pundits for seemingly uninspiring displays at Arsenal, but even in a deeper holding midfield role here, he was attempting to quietly pull the strings.
Werner heavily involved, England forced into early change
His weight of pass and decision-making are both excellent and the 29-year-old should’ve had a handful of assists before the interval. Werner came close once more after accelerating beyond Jones, but Pickford made a diving parry – diverting the ball into Sané’s path. He struck goalwards but was again denied, this time by a goal-line clearance from Jones himself, before Julian Draxler fired wildly over from the follow-up.
It was almost breathless and England knew they were riding their luck, so something had to give. Jones’ thigh soon did, with the Manchester United man forced off after 25 minutes after aggravating a minor complaint.
So on came Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, England u21 captain, making his senior debut for the Three Lions. Make that debutant #4 under 23, then. Having been frustrated to see the former Charlton youngster on the substitutes’ bench, I was glad to see him enter the fray.
Pickford made another excellent reaction save to thwart Werner after being set through one-on-one by Ilkay Gundogan, before Abraham weaved beyond Rudiger and watched his deflected effort trickle narrowly wide of Marc Andre-ter Stegen’s near post.
Jake Livermore and Vardy both had opportunities before the interval, but the scores remained goalless.
Vardy forced a great save from point-blank range by ter Stegen early in the second-half, while England’s brief period of well-worked build-up play was refreshing to see.
TEMPO decreases in friendly despite both eager to snatch win
It didn’t last long though, with proceedings beginning to gradually decrease in both tempo and intensity. As minutes wore on, it felt more like the friendly it was – testament to the two teams’ quality.
To their credit, neither looked content with a 0-0 scoreline and both pushed for a goal. The main thorn in England’s attacking play ultimately stemmed from Mats Hummels, who was impressive as usual with possession but equally strong without the ball.
His positioning, spatial awareness and willingness to track back and thwart fast counter-attacks meant the hosts were regularly frustrated by his last-ditch nature, not least as tackles and interceptions had been timed to perfection.
There’s definitely plenty of work to do before next summer’s tournament from England’s perspective, but this result is a credible draw – though one that could’ve gone either way.