Gareth Southgate singled out Raheem Sterling for praise after the Manchester City forward scored twice in England's 3-2 Nations League win against Spain on Monday.
Sterling, often criticised during the Three Lions' run to the semi finals in the World Cup in the summer, netted a first half brace as England took a 3-0 lead into half time, with Marcus Rashford also netting before the break.
“I’m delighted for Raheem," Southgate said, as quoted by the Guardian. "I don’t think he ever lacked confidence but, sometimes, you get chances and you’re thinking too much. Tonight he was prepared to hit things early. His general game was good.
"He took up some really dangerous pockets of play, turned and ran at the defence. He and Marcus [Rashford] were diligent with their defending too. We had to do more of our share, and being compact without the ball was critical."
Paco Alcacer netted seconds after his introduction as a substitute before Sergio Ramos headed home in the 97th minute but England held on for a memorable win, and Southgate said his side's latest results have shown their progress in recent months.
“The World Cup was a brilliant experience for us, but we had to show signs we could step forward,” Southgate added. “With a win against Spain and a draw against Croatia, we have shown we’ve made progress. It’s a big step.
"We had a lot of young players out there, and for a team to play the way we did was a great reference point for the future. It’s important these youngsters enjoy playing for England, and feel the way we want to play, and they should be able to progress from this.
“The quality of the performance was great. We played with huge courage. We used the ball with courage. We knew that, to come here and defend for 90 minutes, we were unlikely to get a result. So we needed to be brave with the ball.
"We talked about the threat our front three have, but they needed to believe in themselves and we needed to get the ball to them. OK, we ran the risk of losing the ball near our goal when we played passes out of their press, but once we were out we were a huge threat on the counterattack. The quality and bravery of the play were wonderful.”