Gareth Southgate admitted “there is a lot to think about” after singling out Rico Lewis for praise England’s 1-1 draw away at North Macedonia.
The home side were awarded a penalty just before half-time when the 18-year-old international debutant Lewis was harshly adjudged to have fouled Bojan Miovski. Enis Bardhi had his penalty saved by Jordan Pickford but dispatched the rebound to put North Macedonia ahead.
England equalised in the 59th minute through a Jani Atanasov own goal but were unable to secure a victory in their final game of 2023.
Southgate told Channel 4: “The really big results were in March, winning in Italy and beating Ukraine. But given we’d already qualified, the mentality of the players was excellent on a very difficult pitch. It was just that final pass that was difficult to find. There were lots of positive performances.
“The next exciting bit is the draw at the start of December so we will get a chance to see exactly what the path looks like.
“There are lots of players to keep track of. In this batch of games, Trent (Alexander-Arnold) has done an excellent job in central midfield. Rico (Lewis) and Cole (Palmer) coming in, there is a lot for me to think about.”
England entered the game without a recognised left-back. Kieran Trippier’s withdrawal from the squad due to a “personal matter”, in addition to long-term injuries to Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell meant that AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori deputised as a make-shift left-back during the 2-0 victory over Malta last week.
Lewis, a day before his 19th birthday, was chosen to make his senior international debut as a left-back for the game at the Tose Proeski Arena, and Southgate praised the teenage Manchester City defender’s performance.
He said: “Rico was excellent. His composure with the ball, the fact that he did respond to that set-back (of the penalty) which was really harsh. He’s a super footballer and we were really pleased with him.”
The 1-1 draw meant that England will be in pot one for the Euro 2024 draw as one of the five group winners. The Euro 2024 draw will take place on December 2 and will get underway at 5pm GMT.
Elsewhere in Group C, Italy confirmed their Euro 2024 qualification with a goalless draw against Ukraine at the BayArena in Germany.
Rico Lewis has the ability and versatility to make an impact with England
(Photo: Getty Images)