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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Phil Jagielka ready for tougher tests with England

Phil Jagielka captained England to victory in Lithuania
Phil Jagielka captained England to victory in Lithuania

Phil Jagielka believe the upcoming h igh-profile friendlies will offer a true reflection of just how far England have come since failing to win a game at the 2014 World Cup.

Roy Hodgson's men arrived in Brazil last year more in hope than expectation, but few could have predicted just how badly it would go.

The Three Lions have rallied rather than wilted since, though, and this week ended Euro 2016 qualification with a 100 per cent record - becoming only the sixth side to do so.

"It's got to be positive because there was nothing positive to come out of the World Cup," Jagielka said after captaining England to a 3-0 win in Lithuania on Monday.

"When the draw for the Euros came out, we knew it was obviously not going to be the hardest of groups, but we knew we had to go and play well and perform well - 10 wins out of 10 says it all.

"Obviously there were some better performances and some not so good performances in there but confidence is quite high.

"We have decided to play some pretty tough friendlies coming up which will be great for the fans and for us to play in and test ourselves."

Monday's win in Vilnius was as comfortable as you would expect against the side ranked 116th in the world - another easy test in a group that also included Estonia, San Marino, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Jagielka knows England need to be tested against opponents of a higher calibre which makes the friendlies - starting with a trip to Spain and a Wembley encounter against France next month - all the more important.

He said. "It's difficult. If we don't look to pick strong teams, then the friendlies are pointless.

"If we pick strong teams, then we probably put ourselves under a bit of pressure.

"But we need to go out and play well - use the formula and game plans we have been putting together during this qualifying campaign and see how it stacks up against the so-called better teams of Europe.

"Hopefully we play well in those games and it gives us a bit more confidence looking forward to boarding the plane to France."

The immediate concern for Jagielka, though, is helping Everton to victory over Manchester United this weekend.

It is a match the 33-year-old approaches buoyed by back-to-back England wins in which team-mate Ross Barkley shone, following-up his man-of-the-match display against Estonia with a goal and another impressive display in Lithuania.

"That is the one thing we wanted and the one thing we knew would come, we just didn't know when," Jagielka said.

"For Everton this season he is making a lot more of the right decisions and his assists and goals speak volumes for that.

"It's nice at the moment. His shot against Lithuania got a little deflection and that shows you his luck is in and his form is in, hopefully he'll continue that at the weekend."

PA Media

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