DOHA — The public clamor for Phil Foden’s inclusion in England’s starting line-up for Tuesday’s clash against Wales had become so intense that there was a danger it could end in anti-climax.
Yet, handed his chance by Gareth Southgate, the 21-year-old Manchester City forward grabbed it in style, scoring England’s second goal in a 3-0 win that sent England into the last 16.
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In a squad packed with young attacking potential, Foden is perhaps the most gifted with an ability to conjure moments of magic in and around the opponents’ penalty area in a similar fashion to former England maverick Paul Gascoigne.
He had gone 16 games without scoring for England, however, and the fact he did not start England’s opening two games in Qatar suggested head coach Southgate still regards him more as an impact substitute.
Southgate is fiercely loyal to Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka, both of whom were benched on Tuesday, but Foden’s versatile display against Wales, in which he switched from the right to the left flank to great effect after halftime, gives the manager a nice problem to think about in coming games.
Foden, like Jack Grealish, offers England some wizardry that could make the difference in the tension of knockout football.
The calls for him to retain his place in England’s attack against Senegal on Sunday will be loud again, and his Manchester City team mate Kalvin Phillips is not surprised to see Foden thriving in the spotlight.
“I train with him every day now I’ve been at City, and it was only a matter of time before he did get the game time he wanted and needed,” Phillips said
“Phil is an amazing talent. To pop up with a goal as well, such a crucial goal, I am very happy for him as he’s worked hard.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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