Southgate lauds Mainoo talent as England group together for Euro 2024

By Sports Desk May 29, 2024

England manager Gareth Southgate has no doubt over the talent of Kobbie Mainoo after watching the Manchester United youngster flourish this campaign.

Mainoo was on target in Saturday's FA Cup final victory over rivals Manchester City as Man Utd triumphed 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Having caressed past Stefan Ortega in the first half, 19-year-old Mainoo became the first English teenager to score in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981.

That match-winning finish capped a fine breakthrough campaign for Mainoo, who has been rewarded with a place in England's preliminary squad for Euro 2024.

As the Three Lions joined together for their pre-tournament training camp, Southgate reserved special praise for the exciting England midfielder.

"The curious thing about young talent is how will they cope under pressure," Southgate said in an interview with England's media channels. 

"You can see the technical ability but it's about how tactically aware they are, how mature, ability to cope with big matches.

"When you're playing for Manchester United, you're always under the spotlight. He's shown that with them, with us in March.

"We've never been afraid to put young players in. If players are good enough we're not so concerned about their age. 

"Kobbie has had an amazing season and it was fabulous for him to finish the season with a goal and a trophy."

Decisions remain for Southgate, though, as the England boss prepares to cut his 33-man squad to just 26 players ahead of the upcoming tournament in Germany.

He added: "It will be extremely difficult. It was very difficult to leave players out of this 33 and, of course, there are some younger players coming in with slightly different expectations to this camp.

"But there are going to be some difficult calls to make. We're hoping that not too many of these calls are decided by injury and we've got the strongest possible squad to pick from."

England will play warm-up friendlies against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iceland next week, before starting their group-stage campaign in a June 16 meeting with Serbia.

Denmark and Slovenia will follow for England, who will hope to go one better than their runners-up finish to Italy in the last European Championship three years ago.

"There are so many aspects to being with this group of people that I love," Southgate continued, looking ahead to the upcoming international tournament.

"Ultimately we're trying to form a team and a group that have got to push each other and be there for each other. There's a team dynamic that's crucial to winning that we have to find.

"People will have slightly different roles that they will with their clubs. At their club, all of these guys are pretty much the first choice on the team sheet, so some have different roles in the next few weeks.

"The challenge of winning the games and the excitement of seeing our fans out there in some of the biggest occasions in world football is why you're in the game really. That's what we're looking forward to."

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  • Everyone available for England's Euro 2024 opener, confirms Southgate Everyone available for England's Euro 2024 opener, confirms Southgate

    England have everyone in contention for their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia with Luke Shaw possibly able to appear from the bench, Gareth Southgate has revealed.

    The Three Lions begin their fourth – and possibly final – major tournament under Southgate on Sunday, taking on Serbia in their first match in Group C in Gelsenkirchen.

    Their preparations have been far from ideal, with Harry Maguire missing the tournament due to a calf injury and fellow centre-back John Stones battling a knock and illness.

    Luke Shaw, meanwhile, has not played since February due to a hamstring problem, and was thought unlikely to feature until England's third group game against Slovenia.

    However, Southgate has confirmed the Manchester United left-back is in contention to make the bench for Sunday's game, with Stones and the rest of his team-mates fully fit.

    "Everyone is available. We have a decision whether Luke is a possible to use from the bench or not but everyone has trained today and is available," Southgate said on Saturday.

    England are playing at an 11th edition of the Euros, racking up more games at the tournament (38) than any other team has managed without winning it.

    As Southgate looks to end 58 years of hurt at major tournaments, he is breaking the competition down into a series of short-term targets.

    "I'm hugely excited," he said. "To lead your country into a major tournament is an amazing honour. I'm very privileged. It's as exciting as it was ahead of Russia, if not more so. 

    "In terms of our standing, you've seen Germany and Spain, there are a lot of good teams in this tournament. 

    "We firstly have to progress through the group and then there's the opportunity to go further. Our focus is on qualifying from the group.

    "When you’re trying to achieve exceptional things, you have to break it down into manageable chunks and the first priority is to get out of the group and work from there."

    While many have written Serbia off ahead of the match, head coach Dragan Stojkovic is convinced his side are ready for the challenge of facing a tournament favourite.

    "We should have maximum concentration and the quality at the maximum level, and I would not make a difference between the first, second or the third match, each of those matches are of extraordinary importance," Stojkovic told reporters.

    "We know that we are starting against one of the favourites playing against England, but we have really done a lot to prepare as best as possible. 

    "Trust me, they [the players] can hardly wait for the match to start, because physically and tactically at the same time, I am convinced that we are ready to face the challenges that come with England."

  • Poland confident they can win Euro 2024 opener without Lewandowski Poland confident they can win Euro 2024 opener without Lewandowski

    Poland believe they have what it takes to beat the Netherlands on Sunday, even without their talisman, Robert Lewandowski.

    The striker is Poland's all-time top scorer with 82 goals in his 150 appearances for the national side.

    Seven of those goals have come at major tournaments (two at World Cups and five at European Championships), and he scored three goals in their qualifying campaign to help them into the tournament.

    However, Lewandowski has been ruled out of the Eagles' opener after sustaining a hamstring injury in their final warm-up friendly against Turkiye on Monday.

    They are also missing striker Karol Swiderski due to an ankle injury, while Arkadiusz Milik withdrew from the squad as well.

    Zielinski, who will wear the captain's armband in Lewandowski's absence, remained confident Poland have the players to get a victory.

    "It is a great pity Robert Lewandowski cannot help us in this match," said Zielinski.

    "He is a world-class player, and we will miss him. But whether it is me or the team-mates, we will add something extra to achieve the goal, which is to win."

    "The qualifications were not exactly what we would have expected. The most important thing is that we are here, and we will do whatever we can."

    Lewandowski is in contention to feature in Poland's other two Group D matches, with Austria and France also lying in wait.

    Probierz will manage just his third game without the 35-year-old in the side, but echoed Zielinski's optimism ahead of a stern test against the Netherlands.

    "There's nothing to hide, we will miss him. But other players will have to do what they can to get a result. I hope he will have other opportunities to play," he said.

    "We have to change this team generationally. We will do whatever we have to do as a team to play well. We will not step back, we will progress.

    "Everyone is saying we are going to lose. Everyone is writing us off. But we have a team that wants to fight for each other."

  • Spain 3-0 Croatia: La Roja rampant in Group B opener as Yamal makes history Spain 3-0 Croatia: La Roja rampant in Group B opener as Yamal makes history

    Spain sent out a statement in their opening game at Euro 2024 by thrashing Croatia 3-0 in Berlin, with Lamine Yamal assisting as he became the competition's youngest-ever player to feature.

    La Roja claimed a 5-3 extra-time victory when these sides met in the last 16 at Euro 2020, but they enjoyed a far more serene outing on Saturday.

    Fabian Ruiz released Alvaro Morata to put them ahead after a quiet start, then some clever footwork led to the midfielder's deflected strike beating Dominik Livakovic three minutes later.

    Luis de la Fuente made Yamal the Euros' youngest-ever player at the age of 16 years and 338 days, and he rewarded his coach by assisting Dani Carvajal's third on the stroke of half-time.

    Croatia looked a shadow of the team that took bronze at the 2022 World Cup and saw a potential consolation chalked off late on, Ivan Perisic being punished for encroachment as he teed up Bruno Petkovic on the rebound from the forward's saved penalty.

    The opening exchanges were low on excitement as Spain struggled to combine their patient approach play with penetration, but Fabian provided the telling pass after 29 minutes.

    The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder split the Croatia centre-backs with an excellent throughball, allowing Morata to race clear and finish left-footed.

    Fabian doubled Spain's advantage shortly afterwards. Receiving the ball from Pedri on the edge of the box, he turned Luka Modric before seeing his low drive take a slight deflection on its way into the bottom-right corner.

    Croatia sought a response as Unai Simon denied Marcelo Brozovic and Josko Gvardiol volleyed wide, but their troubles deepened in first-half stoppage time, Carvajal pouncing to prod Yamal's inviting cross home.

    Yamal could have had a goal to go with his assist seven minutes after the break, but Livakovic made a stunning save to keep his left-footed strike out.

    Marc Cucurella made a brave last-ditch block to keep out Josip Stanisic's shot, and Croatia were denied a consolation in bizarre circumstances with 10 minutes remaining.

    Simon's mistake led to Rodri pushing Petkovic over in front of a gaping goal, and though the Croatia substitute saw his spot-kick saved, he tapped home Perisic's left-sided cross on the rebound.

    However, a VAR review showed Perisic was encroaching, so Petkovic's late finish was disallowed to cap a miserable start for Croatia.

    Much-maligned Morata climbs the charts

    Euro 2020 was a tournament to forget for Morata, who scored three goals but missed more big chances (six) than any other player before fluffing his lines from the spot as Spain were beaten on penalties by Italy in the last four.

    However, Morata came into this tournament on the back of his joint-most prolific campaign in Europe's top five leagues, netting 15 times for Atletico Madrid in LaLiga, and he carried that form into Saturday's Group B opener.

    He now has seven goals at the Euros overall (three in 2016, three in 2020, one in 2024), with only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) and Michel Platini (nine) bettering that tally.

    Morata is also just the second Spanish player to reach double figures for goals at major tournaments, with 10. David Villa – their leading goalscorer at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup – netted 13.

    Youth trumps experience

    As Spain made Yamal the youngest player in Euros history, Croatia skipper Modric – aged 38 years and 280 days – became the oldest outfielder to appear at the tournament since Germany's Lothar Matthaus against Portugal in 2000 (39 years, 91 days).

    Far from replicating Toni Kroos' metronomic performance in Germany's 5-1 rout of Scotland on Friday, Modric struggled to get a foothold against Spain's cultured midfield trio and was found wanting as Fabian turned him to score La Roja's second.

    Veteran Modric and his team-mates struggled to get close to Yamal over on the Spain right, and it was an experienced Spanish campaigner who benefitted from the teenager's creativity.

    While Yamal became the youngest player to assist in the history of the Euros, Carvajal became the oldest player to score for Spain at the competition, aged 32 years and 156 days.

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