Wayne Rooney praised both sets of players on an emotional evening at Wembley as England beat France 2-0 four days on from the Paris terror attacks.
Pre-match tributes were paid to the 129 victims of Friday’s co-ordinated terrorist assaults, including a rousing rendition of the French national anthem – La Marseillaise.
When the match got under way England were perhaps understandably sharper than their opponents, who spend much of Friday night inside the Stade de France with the Germany team after their previous friendly was targeted by three suicide bombers.
Rooney added a 51st goal to his record England haul early in the second half after Tottenham teenager Dele Alli marked his full international debut with a splendid opener.
“It was difficult night for everyone, I think – especially the French players and staff,” Rooney told ITV.
“To be involved in this occasion, especially for young players who were making their England debuts, was tough. They were excited but it was a difficult game for them.
“I thought both teams handled it extremely well. The fans were brilliant and I’m sure this will get shown around the world – the unity between ourselves and France and football, which can help a lot of people.
“Football is a global game and, as [France coach] Didier Deschamps said yesterday – it’s not about religion, it’s not about race.
“Anyone can play the game of football. We need to stand tall together in these tough times.”
The action on the field took a back seat to stirring displays of solidarity throughout – such as the standing ovation afforded to substitute Lassana Diarra after the France midfielder’s cousin died in the Paris attacks.
As such, it was hard to gauge the full significance of a powerful, confident display from Alli, who caught the eye of his captain.
“He had an excellent game,” Rooney added.
“We said before the game to the young players to go and express themselves and I though Dele was fantastic.
“We played well. We stuck to our game plan and deserved to win.”