Jude Bellingham denies Belgium at the death as England secure draw at Wembley

By Sports Desk March 26, 2024

Jude Bellingham struck at the death to salvage England a deserved draw against Belgium on a night of impressive auditions in the final match before Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 selection.

Three days on from the late loss to Brazil, the absentee-hit Euro 2020 runners-up faced another high-level test as the side third in FIFA’s world rankings hosted the team in fourth.

England were heading for another Wembley defeat after Youri Tielemans punished first-half errors either side of Ivan Toney’s penalty, only for Bellingham to secure a 2-2 draw in stoppage time.

Toney did well on his first start, as did fellow full debutants Ezri Konsa and, in particular, 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo in the final friendly before Southgate names an expanded Euros squad on May 21.

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    Gareth Southgate said Jude Bellingham "writes his own scripts" after the England star sealed a 1-0 win for the Three Lions over Serbia.

    The Real Madrid midfielder was on target in Gelsenkirchen to take his international tally to four goals, becoming just the second player to score at both the World Cup and Euros before the age of 21 in the process.

    Bellingham timed his run into the penalty area to perfection to head Bukayo Saka's cross beyond Predrag Rajkovic, and put on yet another mature display way beyond his years.

    "I mean he writes his own scripts doesn't he," Southgate told BBC Sport.

    "The timing of his runs, it was a super bit of play in the build-up to the goal as well, and I thought at different moments all of our forward players looked dangerous."

    Southgate maintained his record of winning the opening in all four of the major tournaments that he has been in the England dugout, with only Alf Ramsey having a better win rate at international competitions. 

    England dominated the first half, but were forced to grind out the victory against a revitalised Serbia side following the interval.

    Southgate feels the way in which the game played out was good for his team heading into the encounter with Denmark on Thursday, though.

    "That's the reality of tournaments," said Southgate when asked if the victory was tougher than he was expecting. 

    "They are a strong team, and we had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us to come through and defend out box the way we did was important for the group. 

    "We obviously had good chances to extend our lead and to kill the game which we didn't manage to take, so I was really pleased with a lot of the play, especially the first half."

    England were limited to just five shots throughout the contest, with Harry Kane coming closest in the second half as he saw his header brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Rajkovic. 

    Southgate referenced the difficulty of playing against Serbia's compact defensive rearguard, but was confident his forward line will be firing on all cylinders in the fixtures that follow.

    "Today was just the finishing and a good save from the goalkeeper with the header towards the end. But that will come," he added.

    "I am confident that we will score goals. We were playing against a back five which is not easy to create chances but we did and in the end, one was enough. 

    "I liked the fact that we had to suffer a bit without the ball because I think that is an area we have worked on a lot this week, and we were obviously so much better than we were last week in doing that."

  • Archer has 'exceeded expectations', says Buttler following England comeback Archer has 'exceeded expectations', says Buttler following England comeback

    Jos Buttler has praised Jofra Archer upon his return to international cricket at the 2024 T20 World Cup. 

    Archer spent over a year on the sidelines nursing an elbow injury following a recurrence of a stress fracture that ruled him out of summer cricket 12 months ago.

    The 29-year-old has taken five wickets for Matthew Molt's side, the latest coming in their 41-run triumph over Namibia as they progressed to the Super 8 stage following Australia's win over Scotland. 

    "We were in and out looking at the weather and Jofra was asleep on the bench - he's in a really good place," said Buttler.

    "I’m just delighted to see him back in an England shirt playing on the big stage."

    Archer's struggles with injury have persisted for the last three years, missing England's 2023 Ashes series against the Aussies. 

    The fast bowler played a pivotal role in Three Lions' ODI World Cup success in 2019, and has recaptured that form which saw him take 20 wickets during that tournament.

    Archer has captured a wicket in each of England's World Cup fixtures, averaging an economy rate of 5.91, only bettered by Reece Topley (3.60). 

    Buttler has been impressed with the 29-year-old's form in the opening stages of the tournament, but revealed his progress has exceeded his expectations. 

    "He’s been fantastic and is an amazing guy to have in the team to throw the ball to," said Buttler.

    "He’s exceeded certainly my expectations for where he would be at. He was probably expecting that of himself."

  • No changes as Brazil confirm final Copa America squad No changes as Brazil confirm final Copa America squad

    Dorival Junior has stuck with the same 26-man squad he provisionally selected for Brazil's 2024 Copa America campaign.

    Juventus' Bremer, Atalanta midfielder Ederson and Porto forward Pepe were all called up when CONMEBOL announced the squads were being expanded from 23 players to 26.

    The Brazilian had already had to make changes after Manchester City's Ederson was ruled out due to an injury sustained at the end of the Premier League season, with Rafael brought in to replace him.

    Lucas Paqueta also keeps his place after the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) confirmed he would be allowed to stay with the squad despite being charged by the England Football Association (FA) for allegedly breaching betting rules.

    Casemiro, Gabriel Jesus and Thiago Silva had already been left out of the provisional squad announced in May, while Richarlison and Neymar are both missing due to injury.

    Brazil are nine-time winners of the Copa America and will begin their campaign against Costa Rica on June 24 before also facing Paraguay and Colombia in Group D.

    Final Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Bento (Atletico PR), Rafael (Sao Paolo), Beraldo (PSG), Bremer (Juventus), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Gabriel (Arsenal), Marquinhos (PSG), Danilo (Juventus), Yan Couto (Girona), Guilherme Arana (Atletico MG), Wendell (Porto), Andreas Pereira (Fulham), Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa), Ederson (Atalanta), Joao Gomes (Wolves), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Endrick (Palmeiras), Evanilson (Porto), Gabriel Martinelli (Arsenal), Pepe (Porto), Raphinha (Barcelona), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Savinho (Girona), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

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