Euro 2020: has Jude Bellingham played his way into England’s starting XI?
The 17-year-old impressed on his first start for the Three Lions
Jude Bellingham has given England boss Gareth Southgate a welcome selection headache. The 17-year-old midfielder, who earlier this week was named in the 26-man squad for the Uefa European Championship, could well find himself in the starting line-up when the Three Lions face Croatia in their opening group D clash at Wembley on 13 June.
After making his England debut against the Republic of Ireland in November, the Borussia Dortmund star impressed as he was handed his first full international start in the 1-0 win over Austria on Wednesday.
At such a tender age it was a surprise to some people that Bellingham made the final cut for Southgate’s squad. But the England coach insists that the youngster is not going to the Euros just for the experience.
“Jude is phenomenal,” Southgate said this week. “Just in training in the last couple of days, to have a 17-year-old, who wants to compete with senior players, not only has the technique, but the competitiveness and maturity… he’s a hugely exciting player.”
In England’s penultimate fixture before Euro 2020, there was “nothing flash or fancy” about Bellingham’s performance against Austria, said the Daily Mail’s Dominic King. “But what made such an impression was his poise and intelligence. He was elegantly disciplined, staying back when he needed to, scurrying forward when the opportunity allowed.”
Giving him an 8/10 rating, the London Evening Standard’s Dan Kilpatrick said Bellingham “oozes class” while Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian added that the youngster “looked unfazed on his first start, winning the ball and using it intelligently”.
“You can’t help but marvel at a performance of a boy that age,” Southgate said after the game at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough. “He should be really proud of his first start.”
Jude to replace Jordan?
Jordan Henderson has been included in the final England squad, but there remains fitness doubts over the experienced Liverpool skipper who has not played since February. “Fortunately and remarkably” though for England, “their youngest player is looking capable of stepping in to cover for one of their eldest”, says Sky Sports’s Peter Smith.
Bellingham played alongside Declan Rice in England’s central midfield against Austria and he was “cool and composed” in the middle of the park. Following the performance - and the question marks over Henderson’s fitness - the Evening Standard’s Kilpatrick believes Bellingham “may just have played himself into the starting XI for Croatia”.
Sky Sports’s Smith agrees. “It seems extraordinary England may end up using a teenager to replace a player of Henderson’s standing against Croatia,” he said. “But then Bellingham is no ordinary 17-year-old...”
England at the Euros
Southgate’s side start their Euro 2020 group D campaign against Croatia at Wembley on 13 June.
- Sunday 13 June: England vs. Croatia (2pm, London; BBC)
- Friday 18 June: England vs. Scotland (8pm, London; ITV)
- Tuesday 22 June: Czech Republic vs. England (8pm, London; ITV)