MANAGER Roy Hodgson hailed the quality of England’s comeback in Germany on Saturday, praising the attacking flair rather than the blood and guts often associated with famous Three Lions performances of the past.
Toni Kroos and Mario Gomez had put the hosts seemingly in control in Berlin.
But England rallied and shocked the world champions as Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy struck to level before Eric Dier headed home a last-minute effort to secure a memorable win.
It was a night to remember for the Three Lions, but one Hodgson believes was based on the quality of his players as opposed to the traditional England ethos of getting stuck in.
Nights such as the gritty 0-0 draw in Italy that saw Glenn Hoddle’s side qualify for the 1998 World Cup and the 1-0 win over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup in which England played with such battling passion spring to mind – but this comeback in Berlin’s Olympiastadion was different.
“All credit to the players to come back and win the game in the way they did,” Hodgson said.
“It was by playing football and there was no element of just rolling our sleeves up and winning more challenges – we had been winning challenges right the way through the game.
“It was about using the quality we think this team has to create more chances and I think three goals, we have got to say with that number of chances, is a fairly meagre return.”
Hodgson’s side on Saturday night was certainly not shackled by previous failings of the national team – just 161 caps were shared among the starting XI before kick-off.
But the innocence of youth, with 19-year-old Dele Alli again starring alongside the likes of Kane and Dier, both 22, was something that Hodgson never feared would lead to a loss against the vastly more experienced world champions.
“We honestly believed that, although the team was young and inexperienced, if we could carry out our game plan we could cause Germany problems and that showed from the very first minute,” he said.
“At half-time we had nothing to show for it . The second goal came at a time when we were playing well and looking to get back into the game and that was a cold shower for us.
“I think the thing that is going to please me the most is the general performance of the team from the first minute to the last.
“It is very satisfying that the performance then gives you a result because they don’t always and sometimes we have been on the end of games where we haven’t been bitterly disappointed by the performance but we have been by the result.”
If many saw this as vindication for Hodgson’s continued faith in young players – with the likes of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley hoping to push their way into his side before the start of the European Championships – the 68-year-old himself does not quite agree.
“I don’t know what I had to vindicate as such,” he said.
“I’ve not felt, with the approach we’ve had from changing the team from 2012, 2014 to this 2016 edition, that people weren’t behind that or that we were going down the wrong track or making mistakes.
“They may have raised a few eyebrows, putting Dele Alli in the team when he’s not even played for the Under-20s or Under-21s and only a few games for the Under-19s.
“But we had good experiences before with people like Raheem Sterling, who we put in at an early age, or Danny Welbeck. We tried it with them and that didn’t let us down.
“Not at any stage of the game did we sit back and accept that Germany would press us back, we were pressing them back more and it is so nice when you start to take your goal chances.
“There was a moment I feared I would be talking and saying the performance was good and we created chances, but we didn’t take them and as a manager that is always the frustrating thing because that is icing on the cake which makes a performance what it is.”
Goalkeeper Jack Butland was scheduled to undergo a scan yesterday on the ankle injury he sustained in the lead-up to Germany’s opening goal.
Butland picked up the injury just before Kroos opened the scoring in Berlin but did not kick the ball out and was beaten from distance – staying down as Germany celebrated and being substituted for Southampton’s Fraser Forster.
Butland took to social media yesterday to confirm he is to have tests to determine the extent of the problem, tweeting: “Thank you for all your messages, I’ll be having a scan today to see the damage to my ankle and will work hard to get back fit! thank you!”
Butland added on Twitter: “Firstly, what a night to be involved in! an incredible and much deserved win against the World Cup winners, makes me proud to be English!
“But my nature to not give up was my downfall, the injury I’ll recover from but more importantly the experience I’ll learn from!”
Germany: Neuer, Hector, Hummels (Tah 46), Can, Rudiger, Muller (Podolski 75), Khedira, Kroos, Reus (Schurrle 64), Ozil, Gomez (Gotze 79). Unused substitutes: Leno, Mustafi, Rudy, Ginter, Kramer, Draxler, Bellarabi, Volland, ter Stegen, Trapp.
England: Butland (Forster 45), Clyne, Cahill, Smalling, Rose, Alli, Henderson, Dier, Lallana (Barkley 70), Kane, Welbeck (Vardy 70). Unused substitutes: Walker, Walcott, Stones, Jagielka, Milner, Drinkwater, Sturridge, Heaton.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy).