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England show 'heart, resilience, spirit' as praise for Joe Gomez rolls in

England show 'heart, resilience, spirit' as praise for Joe Gomez rolls in
From ESPN - November 14, 2017

LONDON -- John Stones believes England can take heart from going toe-to-toe with FIFA's top two ranked sides, after Gareth Southgate's team followed last week's 0-0 draw with Germany by recording the same result against Brazil on Tuesday night.

England were on the back foot for much of the match against a side that featured Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Philippe Coutinho, but even though they won neither game and did not manage a goal, the players were satisfied with their performances.

"We can take confidence from knowing we have competed against the top two teams in the world," said Stones.

"We came off the pitch really pleased because of the attacking threat they had. Obviously we have not scored but we were solid. It's a step in the right direction."

The performance was particularly impressive given the depleted nature of the squad. Several key men were absent, but that allowed youngsters like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Gomez, who excelled alongside Stones in a three-man defence that greatly limited the opportunities Brazil were able to create.

"It's been difficult for the manager with the injuries," said Stones. "Whoever gets out on the pitch has got to give the manager a problem, and the lads who have played in these two games have definitely done that.

"When you get a chance like tonight you have got to take it, and against Germany as well. It's healthy competition: the manager wants that problem. We want to make it difficult for him to pick a team."

Eric Dier captained England for the second game in a row, and while he was also pleased with the way the team defended, he believes there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly given the tests they will face in next summer's World Cup in Russia.

"It was difficult," said the Tottenham midfielder. "We limited them to a very few clear chances, even though they controlled the game. In that sense it was a bit disappointing because we would have liked to do more with the ball and press high up the pitch.

"Every game we want to be the better team. We want to win. We are getting better in that sense. Germany was a massive improvement -- it was a 50-50 game. The ambition of everyone here is to keep improving and progressing.

"Brazil are probably the best national team I have faced, so it probably wo not be like that in every game. Our mentality needs to be, in every game we play, to dominate and win."

Whether England will be able to compete with sides like Brazil at the World Cup remains to be seen, but Dier believes England are at least moving towards the standard required to make an impression in Russia.

"Brazil have players of extreme talent, and as a collective they are extremely strong so they have got both," he said. "We have got very talented individuals as well, even though the squad was severely depleted for this game.

"The young boys have come in and done well, like Joe Gomez today -- I thought he was brilliant. We have the individuals, and it's now about bringing it together as a team. We are definitely going in the right direction."

England boss Gareth Southgate agreed with Dier, saying his side proved they have the defensive mettle to challenge the best in the world after keeping Brazil's attacking brilliance at bay.

"The resilience collective and individually was absolutely outstanding," Southgate said.

"I was probably more proud tonight than I was against Germany because we played, I think, the best team in the world, with their full team out, and come out with a really creditable result.

"We can look at areas we could improve but we found so many positives in terms of players who have performed at this level for the first time.

"They are not going to face more difficult tests than they have had in the two matches we have just had. We had the best defensive record in Europe in qualifying and we have played the best two teams in the world and not conceded.

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