The platitudes from Gareth Southgate came out rat-a-tat-tat to illustrate the size of the peak he felt England had just scaled.
‘They are a top side,’ Southgate started with; he then referred to Belgium’s ability to cause problems, the quality they have on the ball. He spoke about them asking questions, he emphasised their technical ability and the depth of the squad.
‘The quality of the opponent we have played is the level we to aspire to a consistent basis,’ England’s head coach concluded. Southgate had every reason to feel content, as it is not very often the world’s number one team arrives in London and is promptly sent packing.
Kevin de Bruyne was wonderful for Belgium and will surely be the best midfielder at Euro 2020
Gareth Southgate has every reason to feel content after England rallied to defeat the visitors
England deserved this victory; for their perseverance and determination and refusal to sink in the tough moments, this was a significant feather in Southgate’s cap and the country’s most important result since beating Spain 3-2 in Seville two years ago.
But… There has to be a ‘but’. England may have won this battle but to win the war – and to usurp Belgium in the world rankings – there is some way to go. If you think this result means Belgium’s hopes of winning the European Championships are diminished, you should think again.
Roberto Martinez, Belgium’s head coach, may have squawked and chirped from the sidelines and scrunched his face when those fluent passing moves of his side went down dead ends but this was not a night that will have had him worried.
Roberto Martinez, the Belgium coach, will not be overtly worried despite his team's defeat
In the first half, especially, there were moments when you felt the red swarm was going to repeatedly sting England. There was one 25 minute spell, during which time they took the lead, that Belgium showed why they sit atop of the rankings.
‘They made it tough for us and we were hanging in there,’ said Mason Mount, scorer of England’s decisive goal.
Everywhere you could see quality