Gareth Southgate praised his players for their ‘good individual performances’, despite England losing 1-0 to Italy and dropping out of the Nations League top flight, while Joe Cole lauded the one England ace who actually impressed.
The Three Lions looked disjointed and had little creativity at the San Siro. The defeat means they have now gone five matches without a win for the first time since 2014, when Roy Hodgson was in charge.
England have also failed to score in three games, the first time this has happened since 2000.
There was an early warning for England when Gianluca Scamacca was picked out at the back post. He rose above Harry Maguire to head at goal, but Nick Pope managed to keep it out.
There were few more chances in the first half as both sides played out a rather dull opening 45 minutes.
Nicolo Barella had a good opportunity in the 57th minute and almost connected with a cross to beat Pope. The effort may have been chalked off for offside, though.
Italy opened the scoring in the 68th minute through Giacomo Raspadori. He received the ball from a long pass and brought it down with a great touch before cutting inside. England’s defenders didn’t close him down and he sent a curling effort into the far corner.
And that goal proved to be the winner as England failed to land an equaliser. Harry Kane had a couple of shots in the 77th minute, but both of these were kept out by Gigi Donnarumma. To make matters worse for Southgate, substitute Jack Grealish got a yellow card in stoppage time and will no longer be available for the match against Germany.
In a post-match interview with BBC Sport, Southgate surprisingly praised his team by saying: “It’s difficult for me to be too critical of the performance. We had more possession, more shots, more shots on target.
“For large parts of the game we played very well. We didn’t deal with the decisive moment defensively. We had moments where we had the chance to be decisive in their final third which our quality wasn’t quite right.
“It’s a spell where ultimately results are going to be the thing that everyone reacts to but I thought there were a lot of positives for us as a team tonight.
“Lots of good individual performances. I personally thought the performance is a step in the right direction. I completely understand because of the result that is not going to be the reaction.”
When analysing the game for Channel 4, former England wide man Joe Cole said Jude Bellingham’s performance was the only positive for England.
“We have to be braver. These lads have got the ability. We’ve seen it week in, week out – they’re top drawer players. Puff your chest out, put your shoulders back.
“Jude Bellingham, a 19-year-old, was our best player tonight. That’s unacceptable with the quality we’ve got because they have got the ability.”
Declan Rice admits England ‘have slipped below standards’
During a post-match interview with Channel 4, Rice spoke openly about England’s recent form. He admits they ‘have slipped below our standards’ but insists the team will come good.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” Rice admitted. “Every tournament we go into, we set out to win. In the Nations League we have slipped below our standards but I didn’t think it was all bad tonight.
“It’s coming. It was a much better performance tonight than we saw in the summer.
“It’s not that we’re not creating the chances. I see it in training. There are goals for fun.
“Trust me, we are going to be good.”