Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
PA Phil Foden has played just 19 minutes of football in Qatar across England’s opening two games.
# England V Wales
Southgate wary of pressure and expectation on Foden, Bale and Ramsey could be benched
England and Wales face off in a World Cup Group B showdown tonight.

ENGLAND MANAGER GARETH Southgate wants to ensure Phil Foden does not become a victim of his own success.

The Manchester City midfielder has played just 19 minutes of football in Qatar across England’s opening two games.

He came off the bench in the opening 6-2 thrashing of Iran but was an unused substitute in Friday’s goalless draw with the USA.

There was widespread clamour for Foden to be introduced and Southgate was criticised for not utilising the 22-year-old as his side struggled to create chances at the Al Bayt Stadium.

He could come into the side that faces Wales on Tuesday, with Southgate tipped to make changes – but the England boss has warned against expecting too much from Foden at this stage of his career.

“We have to be careful because we are putting a lot of pressure on him now,” he said.

“We’re a team and we need all of the players and they can all play a part but not any one of them is the reason we will win or lose.

“We need to make sure we are not building Phil into as situation where actually if he steps on the pitch this is becoming really difficult for him because the level of expectation is beyond a young guy who is still establishing himself internationally, in a different environment from his club where you’re comfortable with all the players you play with, it’s really distinctive, you’re going home every night, you’re calm with everything else.

“This is still a unique environment. He is still a really young player and he’s doing brilliantly well and we love him to bits. We also have got to look after him a bit as well.”

Southgate also refuted suggestions Foden had not been in contention due to his club form heading into the finals.

“We have just got really good players,” he added.

“Bukayo Saka has been an outstanding player in the league this year. Raheem (Sterling) has scored 20 goals in 80 caps for England. Jack (Grealish) and Marcus (Rashford) are also in good form. We are really happy with Phil, we are really happy to have Phil.

“He is going to play a big part in this tournament, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

Meanwhile, Robert Page has suggested Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey could be used off the bench for Wales’ make-or-break clash tonight.

Skipper Bale and Ramsey have been Wales’ best players over the last decade or so and guided the country to the last two European Championships and the 2022 World Cup.

But both players – Bale is 33 and Ramsey 31 – have been way below their best in Qatar, leaving some Wales fans to call for the pair to be benched with Page’s side on the brink of World Cup elimination.

Manager Page said: “It’s a big ask for anybody in this environment to go four days later.

“I’m going to pick a team that I think can go out and compete against England, whether that’s with or without them. I’m not going to give that away.

spqatar-al-rayyan-2022-world-cup-group-b-wal-vs-irn Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Start or sub? Bale and Ramsey. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

“If they don’t start, can they can make an impact? That’s always been my dilemma playing games in quick succession.

“If they start one game, can they start the next? My thought process won’t be any different.

“Whether they come on and have an impact or start and last an hour or 90 minutes, they are talented footballers.

“We’re all getting criticism now and rightly so because results aren’t going our way and that’s the industry we’re in.

“We’re big enough to take it – it’s not a problem. We put our big boy pants on and get on with it.”

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Wales would secure a round of 16 place by beating England by a four-goal margin, something they have never achieved in 103 games between the two countries.

Any win would put Wales into the knockout phase as long as Iran and the United States draw the other game in the group.

Page said: “We’ve worked so hard to get into this position. My frustration and disappointment for the players is that we’ve shown nowhere near the levels of performance that have got us to this World Cup.

“We’ve picked them up, we’ve addressed it, we’ve got to draw a line under it, the last performance.

“Irrespective of the other result, whether we go home or whether we go through, we have to give a performance that our supporters can be proud of.

“We want to react in a positive manner and I’ll pick a team that’ll go out and give everything to the cause.”

Wales have not beaten England since Mark Hughes secured a 1-0 win in the 1984 British Home Championship.

Page said: “We don’t look back at stats like that. We don’t need that as motivation to win this game.

“We are hurting as a group because we know we’re better than what we’re showing. That is the motivation we need at the minute.

“It just so happens to be that it’s England we’re playing against. We’ll pick a team that will be ready and we’ll have a go.”

For the latest news coverage on the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022, see here >

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