Joe Gomez marking Neymar a highlight among England debutants

Joe Gomez marking Neymar a highlight among England debutants
From ESPN - November 15, 2017

It might not have provided any goals, but England's friendly doubleheader against Germany and Brazil yielded plenty of talking points as Gareth Southgate turned to youth in a way no England manager has done in years.

Six players -- Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jordan Pickford, Tammy Abraham, Joe Gomez, Jack Cork and Dominic Solanke -- made their senior England debuts across the two matches. ESPN FC takes a closer look at how they fared.

Joe Gomez

Speaking ahead of the Brazil match, Southgate warned he would have to tailor his team selection to deal with the South Americans' individual quality up front. It turned out that Gomez was the England defender detailed to nullify Neymar, and the Liverpool youngster was named man of the match after doing as well as anyone could reasonably expect against one of the world's most dangerous attackers.

Playing on the right of a back three against Germany -- where he replaced the injured Phil Jones after just 25 minutes -- and Brazil, Gomez showcased his calmness with and without the ball. His impressive positioning led to several interceptions and he made recovery tackles whenever required.

Of all the England debutants, the 20-year-old Gomez appears most ready to contribute, especially because Southgate currently has no other centre-back who can provide his blend of intelligence, technical quality and speed across the ground.

Grade: 9/10

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Spectacularly assured and incisive in the central midfield position he has never been trusted to play at Chelsea, Loftus-Cheek was deservedly named England's man of the match against Germany.

Footage of him nutmegging Leroy Sane and Marcel Halstenberg in quick succession quickly went viral, but the substance in Loftus-Cheek's performance was just as exciting as the style. The 21-year-old drove through midfield, switched play and picked out forward passes whenever opportunities presented themselves.

Sadly, nagging back problems that have played a part in stifling his development returned against Brazil, leading to his substitution after 35 minutes. Fitness, not ability, is the only obstacle to him earning a place in next summer's World Cup squad.

Grade: 8/10

Tammy Abraham

A year younger than Loftus-Cheek, Abraham's understandable nerves showed in the first half against Germany. He might have scored his first England goal after just 90 seconds, but kicked air as he tried to connect with Jaime Vardy's low cross. For the rest of the first half, his trademark work rate and enthusiasm were undermined by uncharacteristic loose touches and wayward passes.

There were also plenty of flashes of the sharp movement that has Swansea City and Chelsea excited, however, and he was unlucky to see a deflected shot trickle just wide of Marc-Andre ter Stegen's post in the second half.

In a 15-minute cameo against Brazil he looked more assured, providing a good physical presence in both boxes and displaying an immediate understanding with former Chelsea academy teammate Solanke.

Abraham is an outsider for the World Cup squad given England's attacking options, but a good run of form for Swansea should see him granted another chance to impress in friendlies against Netherlands and Italy in 2018.


Continue reading at ESPN »