Gareth Southgate welcomed victory over Switzerland as an important milestone in his England reign but knows the pressure will be on in a daunting double header next month.
Marcus Rashford’s close-range volley was enough to seal a 1-0 friendly win at the King Power Stadium, ending a three-game losing streak and also handing a the manager the highest-ranked scalp of his tenure.
Switzerland may seem generously rated at eighth in the world, two behind the Three Lions, but still provided tricky opposition for a team showing nine changes and several players on the fringes at Premier League level.
Having seen his first-choice XI beaten 2-1 by by Spain in the first round of Nations League fixtures four days earlier, it was also a pleasing way to end the squad’s first reunion since their run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia.
“It’s important as a group to get a win against a top 10 team. That’s a pleasing fact,” said Southgate.
“We know the performance could have been better. But the players have given everything through a really difficult period.
“It was going to be tough mentally to switch back from the World Cup to these games, physically for all the players, and with two tough games to play.
“It’s not been a perfect week by any means, but it’s a win.”
That feeling of satisfaction will soon give way to preparation and planning, with the October international break bringing a pair of testing road trips.
England’s semi-final conquerors Croatia are first up in a behind-closed-doors fixture in Rijeka, followed by a second chance against Spain in Seville.
Southgate will expect both sides to be strong but the eye-catching scale of the Spaniards’ 6-0 victory over Croatia in Elche on Tuesday has marked them out as front-runners in UEFA’s new competition.
Success over Switzerland may have averted an unwanted national record of four successive losses but Southgate does not expect the scrutiny to relent as a result.
“I have a feeling we might be sitting here next month talking about a fourth competitive defeat before the next match,” he said with a dry smile.
As for events at Estadio Martinez Valero, he ahead: “I’m not surprised in terms of Spain’s quality.
“I would imagine Croatia have been through a similar experience to us: players with very little chance for pre-season and matches. I don’t know their line-up.
“Of the teams that got to he last four, Roberto (Martinez, Belgium boss) has the Harlem Globetrotters and (champions) France have strength in depth, but we don’t have that.
“Our players were out on their feet by the end against Switzerland. I can imagine Croatia have experienced something similar and Spain are capable of tearing you apart if they’re on song.”
Leicester’s Ben Chilwell became the 19th player to make his debut under the 48-year-old with an appearance off the bench at his home ground and earned a warm tribute.
“He had good presence, good confidence,” said Southgate.
“I like what he did at the end of last season and beginning of this one. We looked to get him in to train with us before the World Cup but couldn’t. He’s progressing really well.”