London (AFP) – England kicked off their build-up for next year’s World Cup with a 0-0 draw against Germany on Friday.
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the Wembley friendly:
Southgate’s kids are alright
With England boss Gareth Southgate giving debuts to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 21, Tammy Abraham, 20, and Jordan Pickford, 23, there were only 101 caps combined among the starting line-up, making it the least experienced in 37 years.
The average age of England’s team was 24.5 — in contrast world champions Germany who could call on over 300 caps among their starters — and it only got younger when 20-year-old Joe Gomez made his debut for the injured Phil Jones in the first half.
Despite that lack of experience, England were never out of their depth and there were enough composed performances to give Southgate hope of a bright future if these kids — many familiar to him from his previous role as Under-21 coach — can continue to mature at their present rate.
Everton goalkeeper Pickford staked his claim for a starting berth at the World Cup with an impressive debut.
With West Ham’s Joe Hart a known quantity and Stoke’s Jack Butland absent after breaking his finger, Southgate took a closer look at Pickford, who had earned plaudits with Everton following his close-season move from Sunderland.
Pickford has had plenty of saves to make in Everton’s troubled season and he looked battle-tested as he made two fine stops from Germany’s Timo Werner in the first half.
Loftus-Cheek looks the part
With Dele Alli and Jordan Henderson ruled out and Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater declining a call-up as he returns from injury, Loftus-Cheek was given a chance in midfield.
Loftus-Cheek has dazzled for Crystal Palace after joining on loan from Chelsea this season — earning glowing praise from Dutch legend Ruud Gullit — and his international debut contained enough glimpses of his quality on the ball to suggest he could figure in Southgate’s plans for a midfield short of top-class playmakers.
The coltish Loftus-Cheek won man of the match and his highlight was a sublime long-range pass that bisected the German defence, allowing Jamie Vardy to gallop clear for a chance he should have converted.
Abraham a work in progress
Abraham is highly regarded at Chelsea, where the Londoner emerged from the youth academy, and he has maintained his development with five goals during his loan spell with Swansea this term.
That nascent talent was on show as he displayed a promising combination of strength and delicate touch to hold off Germany’s Antonio Rudiger and drive in a shot that deflected just wide.
But Abraham remains raw — his clunky failure to capitalise on an England counter served as proof of that — and with Harry Kane established as England’s leading striker, he will have to wait for a sustained run.
Germany unbowed at Wembley
Although Germany were without the star power of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, their understudies delivered a mature performance to extend the world champions’ remarkable record at Wembley.
Chelsea’s Rudiger, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Manchester City pair Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane gave the Germans plenty of Premier League know-how and they largely neutralised the hosts while also creating the best chances.
Germany’s draw means they haven’t lost in seven appearances at the English national stadium since 1975.
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