Fabio Capello, the England manager, gave his young players a resounding vote of confidence after his makeshift side drew 1-1 with Ghana last night.
Capello made seven changes from the team that had beaten Wales 2-0 in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday but was encouraged by what he saw, especially from three young talents.
Liverpool's £35m striker Andy Carroll scored his first goal for England – a sweet finish in the 43rd minute – in his second game, before a late equaliser from Sunderland's Asamoah Gyan earned a draw for Ghana, whose noisy and colourful fans created a marvellous atmosphere on their first visit to Wembley.
Carroll showed plenty of promise in his 59-minute appearance, while Jack Wilshere of Arsenal was again outstanding in midfield, and Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, who is on loan at Sunderland, came off the bench in the 81st minute to make his debut.
The performances of all three gave Capello heart, after a difficult week for the England manager in which the Football Association has been roundly criticised for the timing of this friendly. Capello claimed the experience those three players gained justified the fixture. Capello said: "It was not a friendly game, there were two teams on the pitch playing well, strongly, with lots of tackles. It was absolutely not a friendly game. Every tackle was a fight. I'm really happy with the performance."
Capello expressed his delight at Carroll's goal but said there was much more to come from the most expensive English player in history. "Carroll scored a goal but needs more time to improve but he's a really important player. It's important for the striker to score a goal He can improve a lot."
The England manager also singled out Welbeck as another future star for England. The 20-year-old striker came off the bench to make his debut despite only joining up with the squad yesterday morning as a late replacement for Aaron Lennon.
Welbeck is also eligible to play for Ghana, and his arrival on the Wembley pitch was greeted by jeers and boos from the 20,000 Ghanaians in the crowd. Technically Welbeck could still play for them, but it seems his heart is set on England, which is a major plus for Capello, who said: "Welbeck will be another really important player for England and very important for Man United next season.
"I selected him yesterday [Monday] evening. He will be a good player. He can improve. I monitored him last year and I always thought he was really important. He played right-wing last year and did well."
The Ghana coach, Goran Stevanovic, conceded defeat in the battle for Welbeck's loyalty. The Serbian said: "I've asked him [Welbeck] various times but unfortunately tonight he has started to play for England. That's good for him but unfortunate for us because he's a very good player."
The ongoing development of Jack Wilshere was another bonus for Capello. Arsenal's 19-year-old midfielder again showed remarkable composure in only his fourth international. Capello said: "Wilshere is a player. He's so important. I told him he would play 60 minutes. He is also a really important player."
Carroll confidently predicted that having managed his first he will score more goals for England. "I'm coming back fit now. Getting the goal proved I'm here and ready to score goals for England," the Liverpool striker said.