Gareth Southgate again refused to say he wanted the England job on a permanent basis despite insisting Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Spain had proved he could “manage big matches”.
England largely impressed until the final few minutes at Wembley when they squandered the two-goal lead built by Adam Lallana’s early penalty and Jamie Vardy’s second-half header.
The interim manager appeared on course for his third win from four since his appointment on a temporary basis but an 89th-minute debut goal from Iago Aspas and a stoppage-time finish from fellow substitute Isco then secured a draw the 46-year-old said felt like a defeat.
He is regardless widely expected to be confirmed as Sam Allardyce’s permanent successor in the coming weeks, and discussing the four-game spell that began with last month’s 2-0 defeat of Malta, Southgate said: “I’ve learned a lot about the role. I’ve proved to myself I can manage big matches, that I can tactically – with the help of my staff – prepare the team to play a top side and give them a really tough test.
“I feel every situation we’ve been through – many of which have been complex, and potential powderkegs – we’ve coped with very well.
“This has been a brilliant experience, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the players; I can see the potential of the group.
“When I took over it was a moment of instability for everybody. We’ve brought stability back and built a platform for the team to push forward. In terms of the remit we were asked to do, we’ve fulfilled that.
“I’m proud to have led the country for a couple of really important games and experienced what that feels like.”
Asked how soon a decision should be made on his future, Southgate then said: “We’ve got an Under-21 European finals to prepare for – and I need to know where I’m going to park my car for the next few weeks!
“(But) I don’t think people should do their business (publicly). It’s right to speak privately about those matters.
“The whole focus has been on getting results for the team and the country, and I’m proud to have done that, but it’s right to be private about those matters.”
Southgate has made no secret of his intention to finally give England a consistent identity, and of the way there is much they can take from the Spanish template.
Spain similarly experienced generations of underachievement before years of success began with victory at Euro 2008, and their manager Julen Lopetegui – who like Southgate once managed his country’s Under-21 team – spoke highly of the progress he believes England have already made.
“Their plans were working better than ours,” said the 50-year-old. “We could see they were utilising the space we were leaving for them and things weren’t easy. The penalty was a really good example of that. They were better than us at the start.
“We tried to match that intensity but throughout that first 45 minutes, England were much more intense than ourselves. They really showed their virtues and what’s good about the English game in that half.
“To pull a draw out of the fire was great; it showed we never gave up. We came away from a difficult fixture with the draw.
“(Southgate’s) already working very, very well. You can see his team: it’s fast, has quality, a good mentality, and is good tactically. I hope for the best for him and the England team.”
Eric Dier made his 13th appearance for England in 2016, more than any other player.
Adam Lallana has scored in each of his last three games for England after failing to find the net in his 26 before that.
The Liverpool man scored with the first shot of the match.
The Three Lions have scored in 13 of their last 15 games.
Jamie Vardy has scored his first goal in 15 games for club and country.
The Leicester City striker has now bagged five goals in his last 10 games for England.
The Three Lions conceded for the first time in their last five games.
Spain have scored exactly two goals in three of their last four clashes with England.
England have lost just one of their last 12 internationals, winning seven and drawing four.
However, England have enjoyed just one win in their last six clashes with Spain, losing four and drawing one.
Iñigo Martínez made 92 passes in the game, the most of any player and 43 more than any England player (Jordan Henderson, 49).
Overall, Spain made 710 passes, 340 more than England (370).