Gareth Southgate may have tasted defeat as England manager for the first time but left Germany buoyed by the pride, promise and potential shown by his players.
A year on from the remarkable comeback win in Berlin, it looked like the Three Lions’ purpose and intensity would see them secure another memorable victory against the world champions.
However, a lack of cutting edge saw Southgate’s first match as permanent manager end in defeat as Lukas Podolski marked his final Germany appearance with a stunning winner to secure a 1-0 victory.
It was a tough pill to swallow having looked so comfortable in a bold, attack-minded side built upon a three-man backline, but the former defender left Dortmund with an overriding emotion of pride.
“I am not somebody that is over-positive if you have been defeated, but I have to be really pleased with the way the players have played individually and in terms of the tactical system and the way that worked,” Southgate said. “Their ability to adapt quickly to that I thought was excellent.
“Up until the goal I thought we were really the better side. Germany then had a little spell when they controlled it and obviously we put some of our younger players on.
“That was a good learning experience for them, but I am very pleased with what we learned, the manner of the performance.
“And the one bit we missed was the finish. We should have had the game won, really, but I am very pleased with what we did.”
Southgate handed England debuts to Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Michael Keane on a promising night at Signal Iduna Park, where the latter impressed from the outset in defence with Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill.
Despite the lack of time working on the formation, Southgate says it was not an “alien system” for the group and had been in his mind for six weeks.
“I think it is a great option for us to have,” the England boss said. “We have played 4-2-3-1 in our last few games.
“I think it’s specific systems for specific games and opposition, but important that we have the adaptability to do that.
“I decided six weeks ago that is what we were going to do tonight, once I’d studied all the videos of the way Germany played and I watched them a lot last summer live. I was clear with what we wanted to do.”
It will be intriguing to see how England line-up in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania – a match that will see the Football Association mark Wednesday’s Westminster terror attack.
“I don’t know all the detail because the story was breaking as we were travelling and then preparing for the game,” Southgate said.
“There was some discussion around whether we should do something tonight, but we felt it would be more appropriate to do that when we get back to London and it is our home game.
“But I think in my mind one of the key characteristics of us is as a nation is that we carry on in moments like that and we don’t allow people to put us off what we want to do on a day-to-day basis and go about our working lives.
“London, in particular, has suffered that before, so we wanted to put on a performance that had the passion and the desire that reflected that.
“We haven’t got the win which we would have liked, but I think people can see the commitment of the players in the way that they played.”
The official England account later Tweeted a message of support to the nation, saying: “Sometimes football isn’t everything. A message to London, our city. Stay strong. Stay safe. Stay together.”