Kit controversy and Kane out – 5 talking points ahead of England-Brazil clash

By Sports Desk March 22, 2024

England’s Euro 2024 preparations begin in earnest when they face Brazil in a high-profile friendly at Wembley on Saturday night.

It is one of two matches left before manager Gareth Southgate names his squad for the tournament in Germany as England look to go one better than their penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the clash.

Getting shirty

Saturday’s friendly will be the first time the men’s senior team sport the new Nike kit following the backlash that met its release this week. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer were among a hosts of names to criticise the decision to alter the colour of the St George’s Cross on the back of the collar. Southgate said: “It’s not been high on my list of priorities. The most important thing on the England shirt is our Three Lions because that is an iconic symbol. It is the thing that distinguishes us.”

Brazil looking to avoid Wembley blues

The five-time World Cup winners will be wearing blue rather than their famous yellow shirts at Wembley, where they are looking to avoid suffering a fourth straight loss in all competitions. Brazil ended last year with World Cup qualification defeats to Uruguay, Colombia and Argentina and start 2024 as underdogs against England under new boss Dorival Junior. The 61-year-old, who was appointed manager in January, says Saturday will be the most exciting day of his life, but one he hopes will “be surpassed in July 2026 by winning the World Cup” – a tall order for a country lacking the stars of old.

Forward thinking

Fitness permitting, captain and all-time leading goalscorer Harry Kane will be Southgate’s striker during the finals. However, the 30-year-old injured his ankle in Bayern Munich’s win last weekend and will miss the game with Brazil, while Southgate rated him as a “big doubt” for Tuesday’s match with Belgium. That will open the door for both Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney, who will be hoping to get a chance to stake a claim as the main support in Germany. Watkins has hit 16 Premier League goals for Aston Villa this term and Toney is back in the Brentford side after serving an eight-month ban for breaching Football Association betting rules.

The Mainoo event

Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo has been in fine form for Erik ten Hag’s side in recent months, leading to calls for a first senior call-up for the 18-year-old. Having been overlooked initially by Southgate, he was promoted from the under-21 set-up earlier in the week and could make his debut against Brazil, given the injury concerns in his position. The potential of matching a prospect such as Mainoo with the likes of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham will be something that excites Southgate, England supporters and the team alike.

Another debutant duo?

Unlike Mainoo, Anthony Gordon and Jarrad Branthwaite – both part of last summer’s European Under-21 Championship-winning squad – were named in Southgate’s original selection. Newcastle forward Gordon has impressed since leaving Everton, where centre-back Branthwaite has this season developed into a “Rolls Royce” of a player in the view of team-mate Jordan Pickford. The pair will be hoping they have an opportunity to make a late run for a place on the plane to Germany, with numbers tight in Southgate’s 23-man squad.

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