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Gareth Southgate Enjoying England's New Brand of Football

There have been far too many World Cup let-downs for any England supporter to get too carried away by the result of a low-key friendly more than two months before the tournament against one-time Dutch aristocrats fallen on hard times.

Reuters

Updated:March 24, 2018, 12:15 PM IST
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Gareth Southgate Enjoying England's New Brand of Football
A file photo of England manager Gareth Southgate. (Reuters)

There have been far too many World Cup let-downs for any England supporter to get too carried away by the result of a low-key friendly more than two months before the tournament against one-time Dutch aristocrats fallen on hard times.

Yet the comprehensive nature of England's 1-0 win in the Amsterdam backyard of old rivals who have held sway over them for a generation still felt like an encouraging breakthrough for manager Gareth Southgate on Friday.

Indeed, it almost felt like a role reversal.

In the past, the Dutch pass masters always seemed to set a benchmark for comfort and confidence on the ball that appeared beyond the English game. Here, though, was something very different.

"I was really pleased with the quality of our football," Southgate told reporters.

"The tactical awareness the players showed. For me, there were lots of individual positives and the most pleasing thing is the players enjoyed their football tonight. They enjoyed having the ball. I was really pleased to see that.

"We have a different type of player coming through our academies compared to the past, in terms of their ability to play as we did tonight.

"We want them to express themselves, to play with that freedom. They are capable of playing in a really composed way, which they showed. They think about the angles and they're intelligent footballers."

Southgate played the last time they beat the Dutch, the 4-1 hammering at Euro 96 which may well still be the best performance by an England team in a quarter of a century.

Now, though, he was left overseeing a display in the 1-0 victory which, even given the evident poverty of the Dutch performance, gave a whiff of poise, pace and progression from a side with an experimental feel.

The most encouraging aspect of many for Southgate was that this solid performance featured only three in his starting XI -- Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and John Stones -- who look sure of also starting in their World Cup opener.

Competition for places is hotting up. Jesse Lingard, who earned England's first win away to the Netherlands for 49 years with his second-half strike, gave the sort of electric display to keep another potential key man, Dele Alli, on his toes.

This was England's fifth successive match without conceding a goal but, minus his injured talisman Harry Kane, it was again evident that, for all of their overall superiority here, the lack of a cutting edge without the Tottenham Hotspur marksman remains a major concern.

Nonetheless, Southgate's enthusiasm was undimmed.

"I should not be inhibiting the way they play. There were a couple of moments when I was thinking, 'whoa, what are you doing?' but they have absolute belief in their ability," he said.

"They will concede possession sometimes, for sure, but I am enjoying watching them play at the moment."

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| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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