Phil Foden: Gareth Southgate defends England midfielder as he sticks with England line-up for Denmark clash

19 June 2024, 19:10 | Updated: 20 June 2024, 16:31

Gareth Southgate knows people want to see the “sexy” side of Phil Foden but believes England would not have beaten Serbia without his work off the ball.

The Euro 2020 runners-up began their quest for continental glory in Germany with a hard-fought 1-0 win courtesy of Jude Bellingham's early header on Sunday evening. England started their tournament opener brightly but had to dig deep to see off Serbia, leading to the performance to be pored over in great detail by fans and pundits alike.

Foden's performance has come under the spotlight given he has yet to take his sparkling Manchester City displays onto the international scene, but he is expected to keep his place in the England side with Southgate, who is minded to stick with Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield too, set to name an unchanged team for their second group game against Denmark on Thursday.

Southgate praised Foden's key role ahead of the clash with Denmark in Frankfurt.

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"I thought Phil did an incredible job for the team on Sunday," Southgate said.

"You know, sometimes the bits with the ball are obvious and they catch the eye, but the amount of ground he covered, the angles of pressing, the filling in for people who were further forward.

"I thought without Phil's contribution without the ball - and I know that's not the sexy bit and everybody wants to see him on the ball - I don't think we win the game.

"So then later in the game when we needed somebody to retain the ball and take the pressure, I thought he did that really well for us."

Asked if he agreed there was another level to come for Foden, the England boss added: "I think Phil has obviously set an incredibly high bar at Manchester City, where he knows exactly where every player is going to be every time he picks the ball up.

"A club that he's been at since he's been 13 years old. He used to go in there during the week for training, so an environment that he's known nothing else.

"With us, we're always having to adapt to different team-mates, different runs they make and there is adaptation with that."

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Southgate on background noise: 'My job is to keep players on track'

Southgate has stressed the importance of blocking out background noise as England look to seal Euro 2024 progress with a game to spare.

Bellingham's winner came during a fantastic start for England that petered out as they lost control, leading to debate and discussion about all manner of issues.

Southgate has long since learned to ignore such talk, with this his fourth - and perhaps final - tournament as manager, having gone to four more as a player. Social media can make it harder for modern day footballers to focus on the matter at hand, but the England boss has been trying to keep the focus on what is important ahead of facing Denmark.

"There's no point having a rule because young men are going to use social media, in a positive way in the main," Southgate said. "They are going to search for things. When I was playing, we read newspapers. I don't do it.

"My world is a happier place if I shut myself off. It is not good from a global perspective because I haven't got a clue what's going on in politics or events elsewhere. But for the next month that is going to be a better place for me. So that helps me really keep on track. I think some of our players take a similar approach, others will definitely look at stuff.

"There's more noise around a national team than there ever is around a club team. Millions of people in your own country, extensive media coverage, social media, one guy writing a comment on social media gets put in a newspaper now, that's a story. So it's a different world.

"Personally I accept that's how it is. It is not going to affect what I do. My job is to keep the players on track."

Southgate: Shaw not fit to face Denmark

Meanwhile, Luke Shaw won't be available to face Denmark, Southgate confirmed.

The England boss said Shaw trained away from the squad on Wednesday and insisted the Manchester United left-back won't be rushed back into action.

Southgate said: "Luke won't be involved tomorrow, he's on track for what we thought originally. He needs a bit more work. There are days when he needs to do more than the rest and needs to recover.

"He's still in and out with the others and operating on his own programme as well."

When asked if Shaw might not be fit until after the group stages, Southgate added: "Luke is obviously an outstanding player. That's why we've taken the decision to bring him although he's not played for so long.

"I don't want to put a timeline on it right at this moment. He's progressing well.

"The balance he gives, the drive he gives, whoever plays with him down that side of the pitch he gives a different outlet. We're adapting to not having him and having to find a different way."

Schmeichel: England better now than team that made Euro 2020 final

Kasper Schmeichel says Denmark are facing a better England side than the one that beat them in the Euros semi-finals three years ago - a galling loss that he insists provides no added motivation.

The Scandinavians are looking to kick-start their Euro 2024 campaign in Frankfurt having been pegged back by Slovenia as their Group C opener ended 1-1 on Sunday.

England will seal a place in the round of 16 if they beat Denmark, having defeated Serbia 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen where man of the match Bellingham's early header was the difference.

The Real Madrid star has become a key player since the nations last met in the Euro 2020 semi-finals and Schmeichel believes Gareth Southgate's men have reached new heights.

"I think England were a world-class side when we met them," the former Leicester goalkeeper said.

"They got to the final of a major championship, so they were definitely a world-class side when we met them.

"And I think when you look at some of the additions since and the experience they've gained now over time, I think they're probably a better side now than ever, at least in the time I've been playing them against them.

"You look at then, all over the pitch they have world-class talent, so they're a very good side and we're going to have to be on top of our game to beat them."

Southgate: We know we can play better

Southgate was asked about Schmeichel's comments and believes his side still have plenty of room for improvement, especially after their narrow win over Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener.

"I think we have to prove that really. The opponent is not going to sit here and say we're a load of idiots and lead into the game that way.

"We know we have good players, we know we can play better than the other day. But I thought the players in an incredibly pressurised moment started exceptionally well and defended brilliantly throughout the whole game. I think they'll be better for having a game under their belt.

"Emotionally there's so much tension I don't think people can really understand what it is like for young players. We are pleased to have got a result from that and we know we have to be good tomorrow."