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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (file pic).
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Chelsea youngster ready to answer England's call
With Dele Alli doubtful through injury, Ruben Loftus-Cheek could start against Panama.

RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK said he is ready to start England’s second Group G match at the World Cup against Panama if Dele Alli is ruled out through injury.

Alli picked up a thigh strain in England’s 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday and his fitness is being monitored ahead of the trip to Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.

Chelsea midfielder Loftus-Cheek played the last 10 minutes of England’s opening match, during which period Harry Kane scored a stoppage-time winner, and he said he is ready to be part of Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up if called upon.

“I am happy if I start or if I don’t,” Loftus-Cheek said in an interview on England’s official YouTube channel.

“I will be ready to come on again if I get the opportunity.”

Reflecting on his positive, attacking approach to his World Cup debut, the 22-year-old said he did what came naturally to him.

“It was a natural instinct when the game is like that, with not long left, to go and be direct and try to make things happen,” he said.

“It felt good. When you’re playing you don’t think about it but after you let it sink in and it’s like ‘I just played in a World Cup’ – it’s crazy.”

The appearance was Loftus-Cheek’s fifth for the Three Lions, having made his debut last November in a friendly against Germany.

Even before Alli’s injury news, there have been calls for Loftus-Cheek to be included in Southgate’s starting XI, with former England international Joey Barton praising the youngster.

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“I was really impressed by Loftus-Cheek when he came on,” Barton told talkSPORT. “He looked lively and had that ability to go past a player from midfield.

“I just had a funny feeling, and I’m not comparing them by any stretch, but my first World Cup as a kid was Italia 90 and Gascoigne obviously started that tournament as a squad player — he had the number 19 on his back and by the end of the tournament he’d really been taken into the country’s hearts.”

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