Gareth Southgate hailed the “tremendous spirit” demonstrated by England, who he feels have come together and grown following their entertaining Nations League draw with Germany.
The Three Lions head coach has come under pressure recently following a difficult spell of form that culminated in relegation from League A after defeat by Italy on Friday.
Indeed, England have now gone six matches without a win for the first time since 1993. But they showed brilliant character against Germany on Monday, recovering from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 at Wembley, before Kai Havertz denied them victory.
And Southgate is confident the sticky patch will benefit his players as all eyes turn towards the World Cup, which sees the 1966 winners face Iran in their Group B opener on November 21.
“As a group, they have really come together this week,” he told Channel 4. “It has been a tough period for team, but they have grown.
“To an extent, we are always going to face pressure, so we need to be exposed to pressure. We played a friendly against the Ivory Coast in March and they went down to 10 men, and it became a non-event and we learnt nothing.
“This week, we’ve learnt a huge amount. They’ve had to step forward and come together. It will benefit us in the long run.
“In the end, a couple of errors have cost us the goals, but I’ll focus on the fact they played with tremendous spirit and showed a belief that we haven’t shown in the last few games. I thought the crowd saw that and rose to that.”
Goal number for the #ThreeLions.
— England (@England) September 26, 2022
Meanwhile, captain Harry Kane insisted there were plenty of positives for he and his team-mates to build on heading into Qatar.
The Tottenham forward marked his 50th start as England captain – becoming the fifth player to achieve the feat – with his 51st international goal, which moves him two away from equalling Wayne Rooney’s all-time Three Lions record.
“The mentality and fight of the team was shown out there today. We didn’t get the win, but we can be proud of what we did,” Kane said.
“The boys have been under pressure with recent results and we all came out here with a point to prove. But there are lessons; we can still learn from the mistakes we made, but we scored three goals and I feel like this will put us in a positive mindset ahead of the World Cup.
“We’ve upped our game as we’ve gone along in the last two major tournaments. We dust ourselves down. We know we have to improve but there isn’t that much time now with England before that first game [against Iran].
“But we’ll go away with our clubs and hopefully everyone goes away fit, strong and is ready to come back in November.”