England’s ‘incredible’ injury list offers Euro 2024 opportunity against Belgium

Anthony Gordon, Ezri Konsa and Kobbie Mainoo made debuts against Brazil, with more changes planned for Tuesday’s friendly against Belgium

Simon Peach
Monday 25 March 2024 18:22 GMT
Gareth Southgate pleased despite England’s defeat to Brazil

Gareth Southgate believes England’s “incredible” injury list will help him make better decisions around his Euro 2024 selection.

Already without a number of regulars for the March camp, Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone on Sunday evening followed Bukayo Saka and Harry Kane in withdrawing from the squad after Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Brazil.

But England’s eye-watering list of absentees have allowed Southgate to take a closer look at up-and-coming options, with Anthony Gordon, Ezri Konsa and Kobbie Mainoo making their debuts against the Selecao.

More changes are planned for the final friendly before he names an expanded Euros squad on May 21, with one-cap Ivan Toney set to lead the line after Ollie Watkins played at the weekend.

“Ivan will be involved in the game, for sure,” Southgate said. “I have to say, with everything that’s happened, the original idea or plan for the week is a little bit different in that we’re probably finding out about more players.

“But also that’s really helpful. To see all of those players against high level of opposition will help us to make better decisions moving forward.

“You can’t worry about what we haven’t got. You’ve got to move forward.

“There’s a lot of different reasons for those injuries. I think it is more complex than just people looking back to a winter World Cup, but every individual situation is different, frankly.

“It’s an incredible number that are unavailable to us – haven’t experienced that before – but, as I said earlier, that means there are opportunities for other people.

Ivan Toney and Ollie Watkins are competing to be Harry Kane’s back-up in Germany (The FA via Getty Images)

“We saw against Brazil people really step up and take those opportunities, which is great for us as well.”

Sunday’s trio of withdrawals saw Rico Lewis, who made his debut against North Macedonia in November, and uncapped James Trafford follow Mainoo in being promoted from the under-21s.

Highly rated defender Jarrad Branthwaite is pushing to make his debut against Belgium, with Declan Rice captaining the side on his 50th England appearance as Southgate said Jordan Henderson is “not unavailable to us this time”.

Cole Palmer could feature, having recovered from an issue that kept him out against Brazil, and the England boss looking forward to Tuesday’s clash between the sides third and fourth in FIFA’s world rankings.

“It’s obviously a new generation, if you like, bar (Romelu) Lukaku, (Jan) Vertonghen, I suppose (Timothy) Castagne to a degree,” he told the PA news agency. “But from that team from 2018, a big evolution.

“I think (head coach) Domenico (Tedesco) has done a very good job to this point through the qualifying campaign.

Gareth Southgate during a training session at Hotspur Way on Monday (Adam Davy/PA) (PA Wire)

“I would expect wingers that are very good in one-against-one situations, whichever of the selections they make – probably (Jeremy) Doku, (Dodi) Lukebakio, but could be (Johan) Bakayoko from PSV as well.

“They have good midfield players that we’re aware of from the Premier League and also a defensive line that three of the four have probably played in the Premier League as well.

“It’s a really good test. Different to Brazil, although the threat in transitions and counter-attacks is similar.

“Given the changes we’re having to make as well, it’s going to test us in every area of the game.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in