"He did something that none of the rest could do and that's control the tempo of a football match and when we talk about England not controlling a game, that's the thing the likes of Pirlo, Modric, Xabi Alonso and Xavi can do - they're the type of players you need at global level if you want to control games".
Chants of "God Save the Queen" from England supporters who had gathered outside the ground seemed to lift Gareth Southgate's side after the break but the woodwork and some awful finishing by Rashford denied them a goal.
We talked just before the game (about the empty stadium),' said Southgate.
And Southgate explained one of the key reasons behind his shift in tactics is because he feels his team are no longer vulnerable as they once were.
It got no better for Rashford two minutes later, when the Manchester United frontman failed to slot past the goalkeeper after being played through on goal by Raheem Sterling. We were braver and more decisive. I am satisfied with our game organisation and defensive block, which was bad in Spain. I've always said Paul Scholes is the best player I've ever played with and most players who've played with him say the same - in fact, a lot of the players who've played against him say the same.
Croatia should have opened the scoring 37 minutes in through the first half's only real opportunity, only for Andrej Kramaric to hit the ball into the ground when picked out by Perisic's left-sided cross, allowing Jordan Pickford to make the save.
Southgate added that his players' deep antipathy towards England supporters stems from having spent a considerable amount of time in their presence.
"It was a tough game, as we expected".