England manager Gareth Southgate may have to rethink his attack-minded XI after a draw with Hungary.
It was the night England manager Gareth Southgate finally filled his toolbox with all the nation’s favourite picks. And still Hungary’s defence remained locked frustratingly tight.
Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount all got a start alongside Harry Kane in England’s most adventurous line-up for years.
But for all the oohs and aahs of an enthusiastic home crowd, England could only manage a set-piece goal in response to an early Hungary penalty.
Although some of the touches shown by Foden and Grealish in particular did little to diminish the passion of England fans to let the “ballers” hold a bit more sway.
Grealish’s back-heel to Luke Shaw on the overlap in the sixth minute set the tone and in different form Harry Kane’s toe would have put England in front at the far post.
Even the prospect of being surrounded by Manchester City and given a taste of what might have been failed to lift the England captain out of the doldrums, however, and for this reason alone England did not get some of the reward their enterprising play deserved.
Grealish and Foden were lifting the Wembley crowd with their trickery – even if much of it came to little.
But Hungary’s more prosaic approach was a reminder that naked opportunism and a bit of directness is all the magic you need.
Shaw was certainly not expecting Loic Nego to put his head in as he cleared a high ball and his dangerous kick conceded a rather unnecessary penalty, which Roland Sallai duly dispatched.
England need the test of a bit of adversity in these qualifying games and pleasingly they responded by sticking to the game plan and moving up a gear.
The lead lasted 13 minutes before yet another free-kick earned by Grealish was whipped in by Foden, brushed Declan Rice’s back and was hammered home by John Stones at the far post.
England could even have taken a lead into the interval – another Shaw cross finding Raheem Sterling – but the Manchester City winger’s sharp header was well saved by Peter Gulacsi at his near post.
Hungary continued to push on in the second half and one of the problem of this England approach is how easily opponents can march through. “Brinkwire Summary News”.