Kyle Walker was quick to defend Gareth Southgate and his tactics following England's 1-1 draw with Denmark. 

The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

A criticism of Southgate during his England has been the defensive nature of his team when scoring the opening goal, despite the plethora of talent at his disposal. 

But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

"The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

"Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

"It's tough when you come to these grounds and in hostile environments, but we know that we can do better. But, we are top of the group, so let's move on to that."

Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

"Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

"We have got a point, we will move on. We are top of the group, and we just keep going like that."

Kyle Walker was quick to defend Gareth Southgate and his tactics following England's 1-1 draw with Denmark. 

The Three Lions took the lead in the 18th minute through Harry Kane after a nervous start in Frankfurt, but as it played out against Serbia, were unable to build on their lead. 

A criticism of Southgate during his England has been the defensive nature of his team when scoring the opening goal, despite the plethora of talent at his disposal. 

But unlike their Group C opener, this time his side were punished when Morten Hjulmand took aim from distance and fired an effort beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford. 

"The manager has expressed that he wants us to play free, attacking football," Walker told BBC Sport when asked if Southgate's instructions were to sit back after taking the lead. 

"Sometimes, in tournament football, you have to manage the game, it is what it is that is why it is so hard to win tournaments, just like the Champions League. 

"It's tough when you come to these grounds and in hostile environments, but we know that we can do better. But, we are top of the group, so let's move on to that."

Walker, who made his 85th appearance for England against Denmark, is one of the more experienced heads in the Three Lions' ranks and is vice-captain to former team-mate Kane. 

When asked what he would say to the squad following the result, Walker: "They will know as individuals and as a team collective, we all know that we have another gear, but we have not lost the game. 

"Obviously, everyone wants us to come and steam roll teams three or four nil, but it's not football, it's not football these days. 

"We have got a point, we will move on. We are top of the group, and we just keep going like that."

England passed up the chance to progress to the knockout stage of Euro 2024 with a game to spare as they were pegged back to a 1-1 draw by Denmark in Frankfurt. 

Harry Kane's goal in the 18th minute had eased the early Three Lions nerves, only for Morten Hjulmand to take aim from distance and fire beyond Jordan Pickford. 

Yet bar the move for Kane's opener, England's performance was deeply lacklustre, and Gareth Southgate may well face scrutiny, even though the Three Lions remain in pole position in Group C.

Denmark, who looked the more likely to win it in the second half, sit second, ahead of Slovenia and Serbia, who drew in Thursday's earlier match.

There were calls for concern early on in the contest as Kyle Walker was the first to succumb to a choppy surface, taking a chunk out of the pitch as he went forward, requiring a change of footwear. 

Walker showed no signs of an injury, however, taking advantage of Victor Kristiansen's lapse in concentration to sprint clear before his deflected cross found Kane, who tucked away his 64th international goal. 

But as was the case against Serbia, Southgate's side failed to nail home their advantage, and this time they were punished as Hjulmand rifled home the 13th goal scored from outside the box at Euro 2024.

Denmark concluded the first half much the better team, with Joachim Andersen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg going close to giving Kasper Hjulmand's team an advantage at the break.

England almost regained their advantage when Phil Foden was able to find space to send an effort towards Kasper Schmeichel's goal early in the second half, only for the post to come to the Danes' rescue. 

Southgate made a triple change in the 70th minute, and it almost proved fruitful when Ollie Watkins forced another save from Schmeichel.

But Denmark soon regained control, and Pickford was a spectator as Hojbjerg fired an effort from distance that narrowly evaded the far post, with the spoils ultimately shared.

England in strong position, but still far from convincing

Having arrived in Germany among the tournament favourites, England are still yet to show they have the potential to end their 58-year wait for an international honour. 

The Three Lions continued their run of having never won their opening two matches at a European Championship tournament, and a disjointed midfield remains a problem for Southgate, with Trent Alexander-Arnold once again replaced early in the second half by Conor Gallagher, and it appears crucial that balance is found sooner rather than later. 

It was another disappointing performance from Phil Foden, but he showed glimpses of his promise from central areas which will give the England boss another decision to navigate. 

Kane can take solace in becoming only the third player to score in four separate major tournaments for England, after Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, but he managed just 22 touches, though only one of those came in Denmark's box.

All eyes on Munich for Denmark 

Denmark will arguably be the more disappointed of the two sides, given they looked more likely to score late on.

Hjulmand's side outfought and outplayed England at times, but were unable to improve their record against the Three Lions and have now failed to beat them in their previous four meetings (D2 L2) at major tournaments.

But the Danes can take the positives from their performance, registering more shots (16 to 12) and more possession (51%) than their opponents, but the result is the most important statistic next Tuesday when they take on Serbia.

Denmark have now won just one of their last 10 group stage games at major international tournaments, beating Russia 4-1 on matchday three at Euro 2020.

England are "incredibly strong" and "definitely good enough to go all the way" at Euro 2024, insists former Three Lions goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Gareth Southgate's side, who were runners-up to Italy at the delayed Euro 2020, are among the favourites to go one better and lift the Henri Delaunay trophy in Germany this year, and there is envious quality within their ranks.

Jude Bellingham played a starring role during his debut season with Real Madrid, with Harry Kane following suit at Bayern Munich, while Phil Foden, Kyle Walker and John Stones are fresh from winning a record-breaking fourth successive Premier League title with Manchester City.

Hart, who recently announced his retirement from professional football, represented England at two European Championships in 2012 and 2016, playing alongside the likes of Kane, Walker and Stones at the latter.

The ex-Man City and Celtic stopper briefly featured for the Three Lions during the early stages of Southgate's tenure, which began in September 2016, and he talked up the nation's chances to BBC Sport.

"I know a lot of our players well from my time with the squad," said Hart, whose tally of 75 caps is only bettered by Peter Shilton (125) among England goalkeepers. "They are top-class players who will have a huge say in how we do this time.

"I feel like [Southgate's] confidence has increased a lot since my time with the squad. He's had success at the past two tournaments... and it also seems like everyone loves playing under him, which is so important.

"For everything that is talked about by people outside the squad, it is what happens in the camp that really matters, and Gareth has built an environment where they will feel safe and will be very focused.

"It looks like the manager and players understand each other and what it takes to go the distance, so they will be able to put themselves in the best position to execute all the planning and hard work that they have already put in.

"England are definitely good enough to go all the way in Germany. If you look at all the squads, then along with France, we are incredibly strong.

"But I know what goes into winning a tournament, and it is not quite as simple as just having the best players, so we will have to see how it plays out."

Kyle Walker believes Manchester City were spurred on by creating history to a fourth straight Premier League title.

A Phil Foden double and a Rodri strike saw City beat West Ham 3-1 on Sunday as they claimed a fourth consecutive Premier League crown, finishing two points above Arsenal.

In doing so, City became the first team ever to win England's top division four times in a row, and Walker feels that was one of the key motivations behind the team finishing top of the Premier League pile yet again.

When asked if creating history had driven him and his team-mates on, Walker told Sky Sports: "I think so, I think so. We went out of the Champions League, got into the FA Cup final, but to do this, make it four in a row, it made it something special.

"It has been spoken about all year what we can achieve and the history we can make. But it is about the finer details. It was down to just one game and that game was West Ham United. We get past that then we make history, but more importantly we claim the Premier League again.

"It is a very, very tough league to win. I looked at the Italian league, German league, Spanish league, the winners are 10, 15 points clear. Fair play to Arsenal and Liverpool for what they have done throughout the season, making sure they push us right to the limit."

Walker turns 34 later this month but has shown little signs of slowing down, playing an integral role again this season on his way to a sixth Premier League title of his decorated career.

Walker still feels he is capable of playing at the top level, saying: "I feel young. I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel young, I feel great, I still have my pace.

"I come to training every day wanting to learn. Once that goes then it is probably time to pack up, but this group of lads keeps you on your toes. They keep on you to keep improving every day."

Walker has been City's captain this season, making his 300th appearance for the club in the title-securing win over West Ham.

The defender was keen to emphasise that it has been a collective effort this term, though, explaining: "I am the man at the front and I wear the armband, but I don't put myself above anyone else. We are a team.

"There are four captains including myself, and we all pull our weight. I am just the man they've picked to wear the armband which I am very grateful for. To be able to lift the trophy in this scenario, the four in a row, it is a dream come true."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola believes it is only a matter of time before England get over the line at a major international tournament and gives them every chance of triumphing at Euro 2024.

England are among the favourites to win this summer's Euros in Germany along with the host nation, France, Spain and Portugal.

The Three Lions were runners-up at Euro 2020 after losing in heart-breaking fashion on penalties to Italy in the final at Wembley.

They have also come close in the last two World Cup tournaments, making the semi-finals in 2018 and the last eight in 2022.

Guardiola, who has England stars like Phil Foden, John Stones, Kyle Walker and Jack Grealish in his Man City squad, drew comparisons his side knocking on the door in the Champions League for many years before their eventual continental success in 2023.

He would also have closely watched many of his former Barcelona players play a key role in the Spain team at Euro 2008, which would prove to be the first of three straight major tournament successes after many years of near misses for La Roja before that.

With Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham among England's options for the tournament, Guardiola likes what he sees.

"The national team? Really good. But it's not just the talent of the strikers, it's the whole package, the whole group. Gareth [Southgate] knows perfectly what he has to do," Guardiola told reporters.

"I have the feeling, everyone has the feeling, that the England national team, in the last events, the World Cup and European Championships, they made steps.

"They are on the verge, they are really close. They lost a final and got to a semi-final.

"When you arrive at these stages every two years, it's going to happen.

"It's quite similar to us – we were close and, in the end, we lifted it. Just believe it. If they believe it they can do it, believe it and they can do it."

The Euros begin on June 14 and England will be expected to top a group that also contains Slovenia, Denmark and Serbia.

England manager Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 selection headaches could soon ease a little as UEFA considers whether to return to 26-man squads.

Teams have been back to preparing for 23-strong selections this summer after being allowed expanded groups to help cope with the knock-on impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But a return to 26 is understood to have been backed by the majority of coaches at a Euro 2024 workshop on Monday, with UEFA saying it will make a final decision in the coming weeks.

Previous expanded selections allowed Southgate to take a calculated gamble on the fitness of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson at Euro 2020 as the pair recovered from injury.

The same went for Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips at the 2022 World Cup as they worked their way back to fitness and, here, the PA news agency has looked some of the potential beneficiaries if it returns to 26 this time.

Luke Shaw

A key figure in England’s last two tournaments, the Euro 2020 final goalscorer has endured a difficult, injury-impacted campaign. The 28-year-old has only managed 15 appearances for Manchester United this term and has not featured for the national team since last June. Shaw is expected to return for United from his latest setback next month and feature before the end of the season. Southgate would surely include someone he calls “one of the best left-backs in world football” if the squad is enlarged.

Reece James

 

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Right-back is nowhere near as much of a pressing issue as left-back given England’s options, but a selection of 26 would offer James a glimmer of hope. The Chelsea captain has only managed nine appearances this term and is at risk of missing his second successive international tournament, having been ruled out of the World Cup in Qatar with a knee injury. This time James is dealing with a hamstring issue and the Football Association has been in close contact with Chelsea throughout the 24-year-old’s rehabilitation.

 

Jack Grealish/Marcus Rashford

Southgate warned at March’s squad unveiling that Rashford and Grealish had a battle on their hands for a place at the Euros. That fight increased as Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen impressed, plus Cole Palmer has kicked on again with Chelsea after overcoming a knock during the camp. Grealish has since started Manchester City’s last two matches, with Pep Guardiola saying he had a “feeling that he’s back”. Rashford is getting minutes but remains short of last season’s form. Despite the competition, the established duo surely both get into an expanded squad.

Mason Mount

 

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The 25-year-old is a favourite of Southgate but was still a Chelsea player when he last represented England. In fact, injuries have prevented Mount from adding to his 36 caps since coming off the bench 16 months ago in England’s World Cup quarter-final loss to France. Now a Manchester United player, the midfielder is looking to end a frustrating first season at Old Trafford on a high having returned from his latest injury issue. Last month Southgate said Mount will know he is an “outside bet” but an image of him posing for photos in the latest England kit set tongues wagging.

 

Ollie Watkins/Ivan Toney

England captain Harry Kane is sure to be the main man this summer, fitness permitting, but the back-up striker slot is up for grabs. Dominic Calvert-Lewin filled that role at the last Euros and then Callum Wilson did at the World Cup, with it a straight shootout between Aston Villa frontman Watkins and Brentford’s Toney this time. Southgate acknowledged the difficulty of selecting three out-and-out strikers in a 23-man squad, but an increased squad may tempt him to add another specialist.

Pep Guardiola is refusing to look beyond Manchester City’s visit to Crystal Palace despite Real Madrid looming as a Selhurst Park slip-up would leave their Premier League title hopes in tatters.

A win for City in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off will move them level on points with leaders Liverpool, who head to Old Trafford for a clash with arch rivals Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.

Guardiola accepts a draw or defeat would all but end their aim of claiming a fourth-successive title so even the prospect of a trip to the Spanish capital on Tuesday evening will not divert his attention.

City are also defending their Champions League crown and take on Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the quarter-final first leg but Guardiola will only start thinking about the clash after facing Palace.

“Honestly, if we were 18 points in front of second in the Premier League, I would have two eyes on Madrid but it’s not the case,” Guardiola said.

“We’re third, not far away from the top of the Premier League, but if we drop points it will be almost impossible.

“We have to win that game and after that we will have more time, not for recovery, but to prepare. So I have not had much time to see Real Madrid.

“When we have been fighting for nine or 10 months for the Premier League title, why should I be distracted now from this important game against Palace, when the distance is so close?”

Guardiola is mulling over whether to restore Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne to his starting line-up in south London after benching the pair in the 4-1 midweek victory over Aston Villa.

City will be favourites to beat a side that have claimed just two points from their last 12 and sit 14th in the table but Palace hit back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at the Etihad Stadium in mid-December.

Guardiola, who could welcome back goalkeeper Ederson this weekend but will be continue to be without defenders Kyle Walker and Nathan Ake, is aware he cannot take the threat of the Eagles lightly if City are to remain in contention for a trophy he continues to prize above all others.

“I love it,” he said. “Of the domestic trophies, it is the most important. I’m not going to say the Champions League is not nice, of course it is.

“We have it and know how it feels in our soul and we are at peace, for the fact we’ve got it. But (the Premier League) is just the nicest because it’s more difficult, there are more games, every week, two or three games.

“The Champions League, of course, is important, but it depends on something you perhaps can’t control.

“Both are incredibly important, but the Premier League proves a lot. It shows the mentality of the teams, being there all the time for many, many years.

“From my education at home or whatever, every day you have to do the best – that means a lot to me personally.”

Phil Foden took his tally for the season to 14 goals with a hat-trick against top-four hopefuls Villa and Guardiola admitted he could be in the running for Premier League player of the season.

“He’s a contender like many others, many players play a good season,” Guardiola added. “He can be a contender for sure.”

Pep Guardiola has hit out at the scheduling of the March international break and his side’s FA Cup semi-final, but is resigned to fighting a losing battle.

Kyle Walker and John Stones picked up injuries on England duty which have ruled them out of Sunday’s vital clash with title rivals Arsenal and potentially further Premier League games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

The first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Real Madrid will be City’s fourth game in 10 days and Guardiola is also exasperated at being forced to play an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea just three days after the second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked if the timing of the March international break needed rethinking, Guardiola said: “Sure, but they will not rethink. UEFA has its own business, the broadcasters have their own business.

“We play Wednesday against Madrid second leg here…Coventry, Manchester United, Chelsea, they are on holidays one week. Why are we playing Saturday? Why don’t they give us one more day?

“Coventry don’t play Champions League, Chelsea don’t play Champions League or Europa League, United don’t do it. The broadcasters pay a lot of money so we play Saturday.

“We will go to London to play Chelsea, Chelsea will not come here. We will travel five hours. We play quarter-finals [of the Champions League] many times the last years, Wednesday second leg and every time play Saturday. All the time.

“We’re lucky we’re playing at home [this time] but we’ve played in Dortmund, arrive Thursday afternoon here, on Friday take a train or plane to London and play Saturday against Liverpool or Chelsea and all the incredible teams. We are exhausted.

“We play Aston Villa at 8.15 [on Wednesday], we play 12.30 on Saturday [at Crystal Palace] and go to Madrid on Tuesday. Madrid have nine days to prepare for the game. They play this weekend and not again until our game.

“You ask me about the calendar, I give my opinion. Forget about it [changes happening]. UEFA and FIFA have their own business. Broadcasters have their own business but I have mine and I defend my club.

“My club is really tough; [playing every] three days, three days, three days. The other clubs don’t have that situation. The calendar has always been like that with us, we have less days to recover and we did it.”

Guardiola also noted that Paris St Germain do not have a Ligue 1 game between the two legs of their Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona and was asked why other countries appear to provide such assistance for their clubs.

“I don’t know and I’m not even going to ask because they will have their own business,” he added.

“I would like to know the answer why [we play] all the time on Saturday and not Sunday because one day is a lot of difference at this stage with the injured players, the accumulation of games and games.

“It’s fortunate because we are in contention [in many competitions] but when I see Saturday I say why? I would love to know it but I don’t. All the time it’s the same and it’s not going to change.”

City are seeking an unprecedented fourth straight Premier League title and Guardiola admits Sunday’s game is vital as his side trail Arsenal and Liverpool by a single point with 10 games remaining.

“To win the Premier League you have to win almost all games I would say,” Guardiola said. “I don’t think Arsenal and Liverpool are going to drop much points.

“The experience Liverpool have in this situation, the quality of Arsenal winning I don’t know how many games in a row, scoring lots of goals…. That’s why tomorrow is the final, absolutely. We play a final.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed that key defensive duo Kyle Walker and John Stones will miss Sunday’s title showdown with Arsenal.

Walker suffered a hamstring injury in the early stages of England’s friendly with Brazil last weekend, while Stones completed that game but then picked up an adductor problem 10 minutes into the draw with Belgium.

Goalkeeper Ederson could return to the side for the first time since suffering a thigh injury when conceding a penalty against Liverpool and Manuel Akanji has recovered from a knock on international duty with Switzerland, while Guardiola will make a late decision on the fitness of Kevin de Bruyne.

“Ederson is much better but Kyle and John are out,” Guardiola said. “It is what it is.

“For Kyle it will be more tougher than John (in terms of recovery), but I don’t know for how many games he will be out.”

Asked if he was surprised that Stones had started both England friendlies, Guardiola would only say: “I don’t have any comments on that.”

Sunday’s game is the last of the season between any of the top three, with Arsenal top of the table on goal difference from Liverpool and reigning champions City a point behind.

Guardiola’s side remain in contention for a repeat of last season’s treble, with Real Madrid their opponents in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea also to look forward to.

“It’s good to be here and in contention for three titles after what happened last season,” Guardiola added. “We made incredible work.

“Right now every game is so important. If we are able to do it (against Arsenal), the next game will be important as well.

“We played really good the last month but the international break, the first game after you think what will happen? Yesterday we trained good and we have two more training sessions and will be ready for it again.”

City won all three games against Arsenal last season, including a 4-1 victory at the Etihad, but the Gunners have turned the tables this campaign with victory on penalties in the Community Shield and a 1-0 win at the Emirates in October.

Asked what the difference is between Mikel Arteta’s side then and now, Guardiola said: “Same manager, same players.

“They control many aspects of the game and every time they are better and better.

“When you have consistency in terms of ideas and the same manager, you always improve. If you change manager and players, it is more difficult.”

UEFA will consider a possible increase in the size of squads for Euro 2024 at a meeting next month.

A number of coaches have called on European football’s governing body to allow countries to take 26 players to Germany instead of 23, a move England boss Gareth Southgate may be glad to accept as he deals with a number of injuries.

“We have taken note of comments expressed by some national team coaches on the squad size for Euro 2024,” UEFA said in a statement released on Friday.

“A workshop with the participating teams will be held on 8 April and on that occasion UEFA will listen to the views of the coaches.

“Any idea in this respect will then be considered and assessed.”

This summer’s finals is the first time since the 2018 World Cup that national team managers are having to pick a 23-man squad for a major tournament after it was expanded to 26 following the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking after his side’s 2-2 draw with Belgium at Wembley, Southgate said: “It seems to be (settled at 23).

“There is one more UEFA meeting where there’s been a little bit of talk amongst some of the coaches about possibly increasing that.”

That meeting will be part of a wider finalists’ workshop on April 8 and 9 in Dusseldorf, where Southgate will not push for 26 but will accept it if the decision goes that way.

Southgate, who has previously said it is a “bigger skill to pick a 23”, was asked if he was in favour of a move to an expanded selection and said with a smile: “Well, given where we are now!

“We’ve got to make the best decisions with what we know and some of those currently are going to be medical decisions.

“And we’ve been able to get those right in the previous tournaments. We’ve been able to give people time, but with 23 that’s definitely more difficult.”

Previous expanded selections allowed Southgate to take a calculated gamble on the fitness of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson at Euro 2020 as the pair recovered from injury.

The same went for Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips at the 2022 World Cup as they worked their way back to fitness, with injured duo Luke Shaw and Reece James potential beneficiaries if it goes to 26 this time.

Gareth Southgate says he is facing a “complicated” Euro 2024 selection choice given England’s potential fitness and availability issues heading into the summer.

This is the first time since the 2018 World Cup that the 57-cap former defender is having to pick a 23-man squad for a major tournament after it was expanded to 26 following the coronavirus pandemic.

But Southgate could name even more than that at the provisional squad announcement on May 21 as the England boss will have injury concerns to deal with and the late arrival of key players.

The final squad is not due to be submitted to UEFA until June 8, but some may not even have joined up with the team by that point due to cup finals, denting numbers for the warm-up friendlies against Bosnia and Iceland.

Asked how many extra headaches returning to a 23-man squad will throw up given the issues he is juggling, Southgate said: “Yeah, it’s going to be complicated, because firstly the injury situations that we have.

“Some will be back playing at the weekend, some will be back playing in a couple of weeks, some will be really close to the end of the season.

“Then we’re going to have the European finals, the FA Cup final and the two friendlies that we’ve got ourselves.

“It’s inevitable we’re going to be naming a longer squad, which is what we did before the Euros here even though we were dealing with 26 then.

“We really don’t know (how many will be in the provisional squad) because there are so many questions on the injuries at the moment.

“But we’ve gained valuable information about so many players this this week.”

Absentee-hit England suffered their first defeat in 15 months in Saturday’s late 1-0 loss Brazil at Wembley, where Jude Bellingham scored an even later goal to salvage a 2-2 draw against Belgium three days later.

Southgate had to experiment far more than he expected during the friendly double-header due an unprecedented injury list that left him without a third of the 40-odd players on his long list against Brazil.

Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone all withdrew from the squad over the course of the camp, with Jordan Henderson unable to feature in either match.

“I had a plan on Saturday night for Tuesday that got blown apart in 12 hours, so to have a plan for something in two and a half months’ time at the moment is faintly ridiculous.” Southgate said.

“We know some of the core parts of that, we know who’s been able to play at that level, who our very best players are.

“And the rest, we’ve got a lot clearer picture of what people are capable of from the two games that we’ve played.

“We’re just going to see how people are when they come back into form, whether they can do that fitness-wise with their clubs.”

Anthony Gordon, Ezri Konsa and Kobbie Mainoo all made their debuts over recent days, with Ivan Toney registering his first goal – from the penalty spot – against Belgium on his first international start.

The quartet boosted their chances of making the plane to Germany, with 18-year-old Mainoo’s stock arguably growing the highest.

The Manchester United talent staked his claim for a midfield spot with out-of-sorts Kalvin Phillips omitted, Trent Alexander-Arnold injured and Henderson unavailable.

Mainoo won his first cap off the bench against Brazil and, just four months after making his first Premier League start, was named player of the match for his display on his full England debut on Tuesday.

“He gives us a different profile of midfield player to anything else we’ve got,” Southgate said.

“He’s adapted and adjusted brilliantly. You can’t believe his age, really, that he’s just taking it all in his stride as he has.”

Asked if he was confident Mainoo could shut out the noise after such an impressive full debut, he said: “I think, firstly, he seems very mature, very calm. He knows he’s making his way.

“We’re absolutely delighted with what he’s done, first and foremost, and then there’s a lot of the season still to be played with his club.”

Defender Kyle Walker insists Manchester City have now drawn a line under their stellar achievements in 2023 and have set their sights on a strong second half to the season.

Capturing the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia last week “finished the piece” in Walker’s eyes in a year when a first Champions League title followed Premier League and FA Cup triumphs, with the UEFA Super Cup added for good measure in August.

Questions have been asked about whether Pep Guardiola’s side are lacking something this season after a run of one win in six Premier League matches, but the come-from-behind 3-1 win at Everton showed they are a long way from giving up on their title defence.

 

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And Walker believes with 20 matches still to come, trailing leaders Liverpool by five points, now is when City will come into their own.

“On the back of winning the Champions League we desperately wanted to win (in Saudi) and finish off the piece. It was good to go and finally tick that off the list,” said the 33-year-old.

“It’s important now to draw a line under it and it’s a big end to the season when we’re in the competition we want to fight for again.

“I don’t think there was many things going wrong on the field except the results. We were playing well, but this game is about winning and we weren’t doing that.

“But that’s football and in the Premier League you can never let your guard down, you’ve got to keep going until the last minute.”

The winning mentality of City’s players is one thing which is not in question after the consistency they have shown over several seasons and that was in evidence again at Goodison Park after falling behind to the Toffees’ first attempt on goal in the first half despite dominating.

Brilliant goals from the impressive Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva either side of a Julian Alvarez penalty turned things around to move City back into the top four and set their sights on the summit again.

“I think it shows the determination and belief in this squad. That’s what this team is all about, digging in, not quitting,” added Walker.

“We’re all good players, we can all play out there, but when the going gets tough it’s about a collective team performance that gets each individual if they’ve made a mistake or they’re doing well, to get you out of that stuff.”

Foden’s performance, playing centrally, was certainly a major factor in the turnaround and not just because of his goal.

In the extended absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who is edging closer to a comeback after a hamstring injury sustained in August, City have at times lacked that creative spark and the England international is one who can give them that.

“Phil’s unbelievable, the talent that boy possesses is incredible, but with this manager and this team and the calibre of players we’ve got, Phil needs to do it week in and week out,” said Walker.

“I think this season he’s really come into his own and took the responsibility on, where we’re missing Kevin or Gundo or Riyad (departed duo Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez).

“But I’m not patting him on the back. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing because I think the sky is the limit for him.

“Resting on a couple of good games is not going to put you in that calibre of the best footballers in the world.

“He’s got the potential, he needs to make sure the drive is still there, he keeps concentrating, keeps putting in the performances that he is doing.”

Manchester City’s Jack Grealish has denied being disrespectful towards Fluminense during Friday’s Club World Cup final victory.

Tempers briefly flared after the final whistle as City captain Kyle Walker and Fluminense defender Felipe Melo grappled in a heated argument.

Melo subsequently blamed Grealish for stoking tensions, claiming the City winger had shouted ‘ole’.

Grealish insisted that was not true, writing on the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter: “Not once did I say ole.”

The situation quickly calmed down before City lifted their fifth trophy of the year following a comprehensive 4-0 win over the Brazilian side in Saudi Arabia.

Julian Alvarez scored twice, with Phil Foden also netting in the second half after a Nino own goal had put City two up.

Chiedozie Ogbene has not just adapted to the pace of the Premier League – he is setting it.

The Luton winger is the fastest player in the top-flight this season having studied Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt to perfect his style.

He clocked 36.93kph – 23mph – against Fulham in September and sits ahead of Wolves’ Pedro Neto and Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai.

On Sunday he faces last season’s top speedster Kyle Walker, who hit 37.31kph, as Luton host Manchester City, although Ogbene’s rise has not always been rapid.

“I kid you not, when I was younger I wouldn’t win all the races, there were kids a lot faster than me,” the Ireland international tells the PA news agency.

“Maybe I was the fastest in the school but I wasn’t the fastest in County Cork. Not being the fastest led me to think, why? What are the fastest doing?

“I used running to work on technique when I went back to Gaelic football or soccer but as I got older I developed a more powerful hunger for running.

“I’d go to training to learn the mechanics but (athletics) competition wasn’t something for me, unlike my brothers. I don’t actually know what my official 100 metre time was.

“I was more light on my feet because I weighed less and was naturally skinny. It’s when I got older, when I moved to Brentford, I started putting more muscle on and became quicker, more powerful.

“I really like track and field and every now and then I like to put on the old Olympics, the 4x100m relays. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the London 2012 relay final.

“Bolt is obviously someone I loved, the way he runs, his mechanics, but obviously I’m not six foot five so I don’t try to hyperextend the way he can. I just love the way he is. He’s like a piston.

“Sprinters advise to run at 90 to 95 per cent, they don’t try to run at 100 per cent. If you get to 100 per cent you stress yourself.

“The 90 per cent rule it’s called. At 90 per cent you’re telling your brain, ‘I’m relaxed, I’m only looking for 90’ and you end up running quicker because your brain is not chasing a goal.”

Pace runs in the family as brother Kaodi, a pharmaceutical engineer, has a 100m personal best of 10.8 seconds while other brother Uche, a nurse, is also a sprinter.

The boys and sisters Nneoma and Chibuzo grew up in Cork after dad Emmanuel chose Ireland over Florida, when he and wife Christina took the family over when Ogbene was eight in 2005, for a job as a nurse.

His parents had been working in Kuwait but Ogbene was soon playing Gaelic football for Nemo Rangers, before playing for Cork and Limerick and eventually moving to Brentford in 2018.

 

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“Dad liked it in Ireland. It was a peaceful country,” he adds. “He wanted a good education system for us, which Ireland was very good for, and he liked his job in Ireland. America would have been a big journey.”

It means the 26-year-old is the first Nigerian-born player to feature for Ireland, making his debut against Hungary in 2021.

“Nigeria was if, buts and maybes. It was difficult because my parents are proud Nigerians and I wanted to make them proud but they are as proud of me playing for Ireland,” says Ogbene, now with four goals in 19 games.

“I went through the system in Ireland, it is my adopted home, and the opportunity was massive.

“If you want me, I want to be with you. If you give me an opportunity I will never say no. I was also given the opportunity to come to the Premier League and I didn’t want to turn it down.”

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Ogbene had options in the summer with most of the Championship chasing his signature but opted to sign for the Hatters after four years with Rotherham.

He has featured in every Premier League game for Rob Edwards this term, scoring in the 2-2 draw at Nottingham Forest, and after just 15 top-flight appearances, has rivals running scared.

“International football has helped me massively because it would have been a such a big jump,” he said, with Luton two points above the drop zone after Tuesday’s heartbreaking late 4-3 defeat to Arsenal.

“When I came to the Premier League, I told myself: ‘I’ve competed well against some of the top full backs in international football, I have to be confident’.

“Being quick is a good trait to have because defenders tend to respect you a bit more, they’re scared you’re going to go in behind.

“Can I go faster? I hope I will.”

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