Debutants Jordan Pickford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek excelled as England’s most inexperienced side since 1980 played out an entertaining goalless draw with world champions Germany at Wembley.
Everton goalkeeper Pickford, one of three debutants in the starting XI and five overall, kept his side in contention with two vital first-half saves from Timo Werner, while Loftus-Cheek, on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea, also impressed.
England struggled to contain Germany in the first half but grew in confidence as the game progressed and it took a fine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to keep out Jamie Vardy’s second-half header as Gareth Southgate’s side pressed.
There was disappointment for Manchester United’s Phil Jones, who was an early injury casualty, allowing Liverpool’s Joe Gomez to make his debut. Burnley’s Jack Cork also won his first cap as a late substitute.
Hart under pressure as Pickford shines
Southgate raised eyebrows when he announced Joe Hart remained his first-choice goalkeeper despite a poor spell for his country and an exile from Manchester City that has led to loan spells at Torino and now West Ham United.
The 30-year-old has had a tough time with the Hammers this season – and there is now every chance he will face a serious fight to maintain his England status, despite Southgate’s backing.
Southgate had planned to use Stoke’s Jack Butland in these friendlies before a broken finger sidelined him – opening the door for Pickford.
And how the 23-year-old took his chance, producing an outstanding display of such confidence and assuredness that he has now surely given Southgate food for thought.
Pickford was alert from the first minute, reacting quickly to clear a poor back-pass from Harry Maguire, then further distinguished himself with fine saves low to his left and right from Werner.
He commanded his area and also gave England an extra dimension with his superb distribution. It was a very good night for Pickford, who looked right at home on the international stage against the World Cup holders.