March 26, 2022
By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – England manager Gareth Southgate said Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland was a really useful test and gave him and his players the chance to work on new systems and then react when things were not going to plan.
England trailed to Breel Embolo’s 22nd-minute header and needed good saves by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to prevent further goals, before Luke Shaw equalised and Harry Kane won the match with a late penalty.
“Really good test, we know they are a very good side and a great challenge for us. We learned a lot about some new players and some inexperienced players in an international shirt,” said Southgate, who gave three players their debut.
“We know the Swiss tactically and technically are good and we got stronger as the game went on,” Southgate added.
“We feel Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher are very good at pressing but we know that system can leave us vulnerable to the switch. The Swiss worked that out very well, which is why we changed shape in the second half. We had an idea of what we wanted to do, and I still think it was worth seeing.
“The subs made an impact and we felt it was right to manage the game that way. Declan Rice was excellent and made a big impact. Really pleased to win the game but some of the individual performances were more telling.”
Gallagher’s performance on his first start was certainly one of the plus-points for England as the midfielder showed much of the energy and creative drive that he delivers routinely at Crystal Palace.
“He is infectious,” Southgate said. “He can set the tone for the rest of the team, you see that with his club every week and he presses with ambition. Some players get close to people but don’t win the ball but he goes and makes contact and turns a lot of the ball over.”
Gallagher said he had been nervous but also excited. “It’s a great feeling to play at Wembley in front of all the fans — a really proud moment,” said the midfielder, who made his debut off the bench against San Marino last year.
“I was a little bit nervous but not too much. I was just excited to be honest, I was trying to take it all in and do the best I could.
“I was trying to do what I’m best at — trying to press and win the ball back and trying to create chances. I felt like we could have done better in the first half but the game opened up in the second and I think overall it was a good performance.”
Shaw said Southgate had encouraged him to get forward. “In this formation with a five, Gareth has talked a lot about the wing-backs not just creating chances but also scoring goals and I think that’s vital,” he said.
“It’s nice for me to add another one to the tally, I’ve not got many. It’s the best feeling, a special feeling.”
Shaw said he was impressed by the debutants and credited Southgate for making everyone feel comfortable.
“The environment here that Gareth creates you always enjoy it -– when I come here it’s about playing games with a smile on my face and enjoying it and I feel like when I come here I always do that,” he said.
“It’s always important to feel like you’re wanted and I think especially here I always feel that. I’m not saying I don’t at (Manchester) United but here, the way things are, I feel wanted and I enjoy my football.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)