Gareth Southgate admitted England lacked “zip and quality in the final third” in their goalless draw with the US, but defended the decision not to play Phil Foden.
A laboured England were unable to breakdown Gregg Berhalter’s side at the Al Bayt Stadium and were fortunate not to even lose the Group B clash, with Southgate’s players booed off at the full-time whistle.
And while praising the performance at the back of Harry Maguire and John Stones, the England manager did concede his team had struggled to create many clear openings in Al Khor.
“Were we booed off though? I’m not sure if that was aimed at us, I do not know, but look personally I’m really pleased with the application of the players, it was a really tough opponent, they defended incredibly well,” said Southgate in his post-match press conference.
“To come off the high of the performance the other day and find that same energy, level of quality was always going to be a challenge. Their front six make it so difficult to play through and get at their defence and I thought we actually controlled the game really well.
“Our two centre backs were absolutely outstanding with the ball, to play with such composure against the sort of pressure and angles that the USA team press with is unbelievably difficult. And it is only when you have two players like we have that you really appreciate the strain of the game they can take.
“Yes, we lacked a little bit of zip and quality in the final third and we were not able to open up to create really good chances, but we had to show another side of ourselves in terms of the resilience without the ball, the recovery runs, defending our box well, defending any number of corners and set plays that came in.”
England remain top of the group and will now qualify for the last 16 of the tournament if they avoid a 4-0 defeat in their final game against Wales on Tuesday night.
Southgate opted to introduce Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson with a quarter of the game to go, before Marcus Rashford also entered the fray 10 minutes later as England sought a late breakthrough.
However, Manchester City forward Phil Foden was left as an unused substitute, a decision he defended after the game.
“Whichever one of our forwards we didn’t put on and we didn’t win the game, I was going to be sitting here answering the question as to why I didn’t put them on,” said Southgate.
“We wanted to change the wide areas. We didn’t think it was a game for Phil in the middle because he doesn’t play there for his club.