England midfielder Eric Dier believes the stream of young players coming into the international fold is helping to keep the more established names on their toes.
The Three Lions played out a goalless draw in their Nations League meeting with Croatia in Rijeka on Friday night in a match which took place behind closed doors.
Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho came off the bench in the closing stages to make his England debut – the first man to do so who was born this millennium.
Meanwhile 21-year-old left-back Ben Chilwell made his first start and fellow youngsters Mason Mount and James Maddison were on the bench.
A youthful England side created the better chances in the game on the Adriatic coast, with Dier and Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane hitting the woodwork and Marcus Rashford spurning two marvellous chances.
Dier was pleased to see yet another batch of precocious talent come into the squad and feels that it motivates the more senior players to keep improving.
“I feel like the performance was really positive on the whole,” he said.
“Obviously there are a lot of young players in the squad looking to get their chance and keeping everyone on their toes.
“Jadon Sancho, when he came on, I think he was really positive and had a really positive impact, was brave and took people on and that is what you want from young players.”
Gabriel Jesus and Alex Sandro scored late on in each half as Brazil won 2-0 against Saudi Arabia in a friendly international.
The hosts finished the game with 10 men after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais was sent off, following a consultation with the video assistant referee, for handling the ball outside his penalty area.
Brazil began with Philippe Coutinho, Jesus and Neymar in a three-pronged attack but it took them until the half hour mark to really trouble their hosts, with Al-Owais making a fine acrobatic save to palm Jesus’ header over the crossbar.
The Manchester City striker was not to be denied, however, and he opened the scoring after 44 minutes when he raced onto Neymar’s through ball and found the back of the net.
Jesus was one of six Premier League players to feature for Brazil, with City team-mate Ederson, Liverpool defender Fabinho and Manchester United midfielder Fred also starting, with Fred being replaced by Tottenham’s Lucas Moura at half-time.
Everton’s Richarlison made only his third international appearance when he replaced Jesus with 18 minutes remaining.
Moura should have doubled the lead shortly after his introduction but he shot straight at Al-Owais after being set up by Neymar, who saw a 25-yard effort hit the post in the 55th minute.
Al-Owais’ ruined a decent individual performance five minutes from time when he was sent off following a VAR review for handling Richarlison’s shot outside the box.
Sandro made sure of the win for Brazil deep into injury time by heading in Neymar’s corner.
The match in Riyadh was the first of two games in Saudi Arabia for Brazil as they take on rivals Argentina on Tuesday in Jeddah.
Gareth Southgate was frustrated by the result but not his side’s performance as England ignored the eerie backdrop to draw with Croatia in the Nations League.
Three months after meeting in the World Cup semi-finals, the sides lined up at the virtually-empty Stadion HNK Rijeka as the hosts completed a UEFA stadium ban for having a swastika on the pitch during a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.
A few hundred officials and journalists were all that were in attendance for the Group A4 encounter, but there was a small group of England fans perched on a hill overlooking the stadium – and their efforts were nearly rewarded with a win.
Eric Dier and Harry Kane hit the woodwork either side of half-time in Rijeka, where Ross Barkley saw a penalty appeal rejected and Marcus Rashford wasted two great chances as the match ended 0-0.
“It feels like a game we should have won,” England manager Southgate said. “I think the performance deserved that.
“First half, pretty even but a very good chance from the corner, which we probably should have got on the end of. They had one from a cut-back.
“They had one reasonable chance in the second half, but I thought, really, we dictated the flow of the game for a long period and the second-half performance was excellent.
“We were pushing and pushing right to the end, so I couldn’t ask more of the players.
“I am pleased with the chances we created, and we just have to make sure we finish them which on another day we will.”
The Three Lions did well to keep their focus on a peculiar night in Rijeka.
History was made as 18-year-old Jadon Sancho came off the bench to become the first player born this millennium to represent England, while full debutant Ben Chilwell and returning Barkley impressed Southgate.
“They’re hugely proud to play in the shirt,” the England manager said.
“We talked just before the game… it’s not an easy pitch either, especially in that final third. A lot of people just slipping with their footing.
“So, that quality in the final third, at times the ball bouncing up at the wrong moment, but good teams adapt and good teams, whatever the circumstances or the atmosphere or the pitch, find a way of playing.
“I was really pleased that the players did that tonight.
“I was particularly pleased with Ben Chilwell. I thought that was a super debut, very composed with his defending against some top-quality players.
“He was patient, he made good interceptions, his use of the ball was very composed, got forward well.
“I also thought Ross Barkley coming back into the team had a very good impact on the game as well.
“We’re disappointed to leave here not having won, but I have to focus on the way that we play and tonight I thought we played well.”