England vs Belgium: What did Gareth Southgate like about Kobbie Mainoo’s performance?

There were many positives from the fixture but the standout one was the performance of young Kobbie Mainoo.

Kobbie Mainoo in a file photo. Credits: Twitter/@ManUtd
By Karthik Raman | Mar 28, 2024 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

England supporters would have been left with mixed emotions following their March fixtures. They started with a 1-0 loss to Brazil at the weekend. In a game of few chances, the Three Lions made life difficult for the South American giants. However, they got nothing to show for in the end. The home side followed it up by playing another giant of the game, Belgium. It was never going to be easy for any side to face two difficult opponents like them in successive fixtures.

Add to it, England’s massive injury crisis, and the task becomes extra harder. A lot of players were not available from the start and some pulling out after the Brazil game made it even harder for Gareth Southgate. Despite fielding a massively changed Starting XI, the Three Lions did well to come from behind twice and get a draw. There were many positives from the fixture but the standout one was the performance of young Kobbie Mainoo.

Gareth Southgate on Kobbie Mainoo

The Manchester United teenage sensation transformed his club form into an international stage for England in the two March fixtures. He made his first international start against Belgium and looked at ease while playing against world-class opposition. Understandably, Southgate only had words of praise for the 18-year-old wonder kid. “Kobbie’s attributes are there for everyone to see. The ability to receive under pressure and ride challenges, to manipulate the ball in tight areas,” Southgate, quoted on skysports.com, said after the game.

He added: “We were a little bit more open, there’s no doubt about that. We wanted to press aggressively, and there’s times we turned the ball over on the edge of their box when we had chances we should have taken. We had problems in other ways with their players pulling wide and leaving Lukaku one-on-one. He gives us a different profile in midfield to anything we’ve got, he’s adapted and adjusted brilliantly. You can’t believe his age really, that he’s taken everything in his stride in as he has.”

Switching the attention to the squad, Southgate feels that the injuries are a concern, however, he is pleased with the squad depth. “I’m a little bit lost as to who we’ve got and who we haven’t! The great thing is, there’s definitely some players who have emerged positively from the opportunities they’ve had. We’ve perhaps got more depth in one respect, but the injuries are a concern. We’ve got so many players missing at the moment with the real heat of the season to come, with the intensity of the games and what’s resting on them, we won’t know what we’re left with until right at the end,” he explained.

The England head coach gave an update on his 23-man shortlist for the Euro 2024. He feels his squad selection also depends on how these players perform from now until the end of the season. “There’s so many unknowns about the 23 in terms of who might be available. These performances were very important to see whether these players could play against high-level opposition. But equally how they play in their games between now and the end of the season in big matches will have a high tariff too. I wanted to see Anthony Gordon again, I thought he had an excellent impact in the first game, and I thought James Maddison could open things up a bit for us,” he stated.

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