Mainoo set to make first England start against Belgium


Kobbie Mainoo is in line for his first England start against Belgium at Wembley on Tuesday night, with Ben Chilwell also expected to receive another chance at left-back.

Mainoo made his senior debut off the bench against Brazil on Saturday. Before then, the 18-year-old Manchester United midfielder had only played international football as high as U19 level.

Mainoo was initially named in the U21 squad for this month’s matches but was quickly promoted to Gareth Southgate’s senior side.

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Following the news that Kobbie Mainoo is set to make his first start for England, take look back at the best of the midfielder’s breakthrough season for Manchester United

England are set to name a young midfield against Belgium, with 20-year-old Jude Bellingham – who has recovered from the cramp that forced in the defeat to Brazil on Saturday – and 25-year-old Declan Rice, who will captain the side on his 50th appearance, alongside Mainoo.

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Declan Rice says he was left ‘speechless’ after being named captain for England’s friendly against Belgium at Wembley

Chilwell struggled against Brazil’s wingers at Wembley but is expected to be given another chance to stake a claim for a place in the Euro 2024 squad.

Joe Gomez is likely to again start on the bench but is set to be handed more minutes as a substitute.

Southgate has said he needs to explore other full-back options, with Luke Shaw’s injury meaning he is unlikely to play much – if at all – for Manchester United before the end of the season.

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Gareth Southgate says Declan Rice can step up and show his leadership qualities when he captains England against Belgium

The England boss says he cannot see his first-choice left-back being available to play a potential seven matches in the finals in Germany this summer.

Ivan Toney could start against Domenico Tedesco’s team as he bids to secure a place in the Euros squad ahead of Ollie Watkins, who was named in the XI against Brazil.

Clamour for Mainoo inclusion has been heard

Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:

There’s been a big clamour for Kobbie Mainoo to be involved with England on a more regular basis. Remember, he skipped the U21s because Southgate wanted to promote him all the way up from England’s U19s.

With injuries elsewhere, and Southgate telling us Jordan Henderson is not fit to play a full 90 minutes, it looks like Mainoo gets his chance from the start.

It could be a pretty changed England line-up because of all the injury problems, with Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone withdrawing after the Brazil fixture.

There are 16 players missing because of injury but Southgate will want to end this international break on a high after England failed to score for the first time in more than a year against Brazil.

The defeat was their first since they were knocked out of the World Cup by France in December 2022 and Southgate will be keen to avoid a second consecutive defeat against a strong Belgium side, who are fifth in the FIFA world rankings.

Smith: Mainoo could make Euros squad

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Alan Smith feels Kobbie Mainoo has the right temperament to play for England, believing nothing seems to faze him

Former England striker Alan Smith speaking to Sky Sports News:

When Mainoo came on the pitch on Saturday, one or two of the things he did – taking it in, side-stepping opponents – you could see he had the temperament for it.

Even though I’m sure he impressed Southgate in training, when you get on the Wembley turf against Brazil, you never quite know how a debutant is going to do, but he just seems to have a big-time temperament.

You still have to be careful with youngsters like that – you don’t want to go too much, too soon. But he certainly looks to have what it takes, as well as the ability.

A lot of players go into it and are never quite sure if they can make the step up, but when you’re playing regularly for Man Utd, that’s a decent indication of whether you can handle the pressure, and he seems to be doing it.

We’re looking for that kind of player, a central midfielder. I won’t call him a defensive midfielder because there’s much more to his game than that, but that’s a department of the pitch where we’re not fully stacked.

Jordan Henderson has had a tough time and is now playing in the Dutch league, Kalvin Phillips doesn’t look like he’s going to be involved.

Sometimes it’s all about timing. Mainoo might have timed it perfectly. If he looks the part tonight, he has an excellent chance of getting on the plane to Germany.

Southgate: Injury crisis is unprecedented

The fixtures against Brazil and Belgium provide Southgate’s final chance to work with his squad before the summer but he has been hampered by the unavailability of a number of his players.

Harry Kane, Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire returned to their clubs with injury problems after the Brazil game – as did Sam Johnstone, who could now miss the Euros.

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Sky Sports’ Rob Dorsett and Peter Smith analyse England’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil and the ‘question marks’ that remain over Gareth Southgate’s side

Bukayo Saka withdrew from the squad last week, while Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Marc Guehi, Levi Colwill, Tyrone Mings, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish and Callum Wilson are also unavailable.

“It’s an incredible number unavailable to us,” said Southgate in his pre-match press conference on Monday.

“I haven’t experienced that before. But it means there’s opportunities for other people. We saw against Brazil players step up and take those opportunities which is great for us as well.”

Speaking about how the absentees had impacted his plans for these friendlies, Southgate tried to see the positives: “I have to say, with everything that’s happened, the original idea or plan for the week is a little bit different.

“We’re probably finding out about more players, but that’s really helpful. To see all those players against high level opposition will help us make better decisions moving forward.”

When will Southgate name his Euros squad?

Belgium’s visit is the final England game before Southgate names his long squad list for the Euros on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends.

England then play two more friendlies – against Bosnia and Herzegovina at St James’ Park on June 3 and Iceland at Wembley on June 7 – before Southgate’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by June 8.

The tournament starts on Friday June 14, with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.

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