Gareth Southgate is looking forward to another really good test and “important learning step” as England head to Scotland for their first friendly in 18 months.
The Euro 2020 runners-up are among the favourites to win next year’s finals in Germany, which they are within touching distance of despite Saturday’s 1-1 qualification draw against Ukraine.
Long-serving Kyle Walker’s first-ever England goal cancelled out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opener in front of a yellow and blue wall at the rocking Tarczynski Arena in Wroclaw, Poland.
It felt like a home game despite Ukraine being forced to play away from their homeland due to Russia’s ongoing invasion, leaving Southgate to reflect on an important point and valuable learning experience.
The 53-year-old is expecting a similar test when they face in-form Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday evening in England’s first friendly since beating the Ivory Coast at Wembley in March 2022.
“We can have everybody in the squad involved for the next one,” Southgate said after 16 successive competitive matches, covering last year’s Nations League campaign, the 2022 World Cup and this qualifying campaign.
“We’ll assess everybody over there over the next 24 to 48 hours because it’s another really good test.
“Another hostile environment, a team that are playing really well.
— England (@England) September 9, 2023
“You know, they’re in great form, full of confidence so it’s another important learning step for us.” The nations last faced one another in June 2021, when they played out a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Wembley in the European Championship group stage.
Scotland, like England, are on the cusp of qualification for next summer’s Euros, with Friday’s 3-0 triumph in Cyprus extending their outstanding winning start in Group A to a fifth match.
Southgate’s side do not head into the friendly on the same high having failed to click against Ukraine, after which James Maddison said it was important to dig in and take a point if the attack is not firing.
Not the prettiest game tonight but a point closer to qualification for the Euros next summer pic.twitter.com/BCHzA5aoUK
— James Maddison (@Madders10) September 9, 2023
“James would be one that won’t have played in an England game like that in the past,” the England manager said. “Marc (Guehi), Chilly [Ben Chilwell] wouldn’t have played a huge number of those games for us either.
“So, the only way to learn and grow as a team is to have those sorts of experiences. “To go behind in a game like that is a challenge, but we stayed calm.
“I’m not so sure it was a case of digging in because I think we were in control of the game. “But we had to defend some counter-attack moments and a couple of set plays well.
“And, yeah, without a doubt, to go through that sort of experience is good learning for several of the players.
“I think on a night like this the experienced players were really important for the team and I thought they all did a very, very good job.”
— Harry Kane (@HKane) September 9, 2023
Southgate rued too many turnovers and a lack of attacking fluency on Saturday night, when skipper Harry Kane took it upon himself to spark England into life.
Ukraine stood off the striker and watched him fire an exceptional diagonal ball from just outside the centre circle over Vitaliy Mykolenko to put in Walker to score.
“In the end, it was difficult for all of the forward players to find space between Ukraine’s midfield and defence,” Southgate said. “I thought they did that as a team very well.
“I thought occasionally we were coming too deep outside of the block, but when you do that, if you’ve got players with that range of passing, then it’s an alternative way of breaking them down.
“The important thing was as he was dropping, Kyle making the run he did.
“He’s got outstanding vision but also technical quality to make those passes.”