Former England international Chris Waddle believes that Phil Foden has now cemented his spot in the Three Lions’ starting line-up - and will start against France in the quarter-finals.
The Manchester City star played just 19 minutes against Iran and did not feature at all against the USA. But he was handed a start in the clash with Wales, scoring in that 3-0 victory.
The 22-year-old kept his place for the last-16 meeting with Senegal and provided two assists - and Waddle is crediting manager Gareth Southgate for being willing to alter his team sheet to include players in form.
Cemented His Spot
Speaking exclusively to Lord Ping, he said: “Foden has played his way into the team and I don’t think he comes out. He will play against France.
“He’s very important [if England are going to progress in the tournament].
“He can play in numerous roles. He offers that tactical versatility to Gareth - he can play behind the striker, he could even play as a false nine.
“He’ll be feeling incredibly confident at the moment. He’s coming into this tournament after some wonderful displays for Manchester City.
“When you cross that white line playing for England, you have to be confident. You have to believe in your ability to impact the game and, if you don’t have that, then you shouldn’t be playing. He has that in spades.
“When he didn’t start the first game, we all worried because we know how good he is. Since he came into the team he has been outstanding and he has to be one of the first names on the team sheet when we play France.
“There are so many strengths to his game: vision, pace, technique - he has a wonderful left foot - the lad has the lot.”
Backs Southgate Tactical Decisions
Waddle went on to defend Southgate, claiming he trusts the manager’s tactical and personnel decisions.
The 52-year-old came under fire for leaving Phil Foden out in England’s first two games, and has since faced criticism for the inclusion of Jordan Henderson and omission of Marcus Rashford.
Waddle, though, believes Southgate’s flexibility has benefited the Three Lions – and insists fans need to trust the choices he is making.
“People need to get off Gareth’s back,” he said. “People will always talk about the players that are left out - [against Senegal] it was Rashford.
“You want the manager to pick players on form. A lot of people have spoken about Rashford and Foden and both of them have performed well.
“As a manager, when you shuffle the pack and make changes, players can come in and keep shirts. I think that is something that Foden has done.
“At previous World Cups, managers have changed things on a game-by-game basis and got results. I think Southgate’s flexibility is a good thing. All the fans will have an XI in their head that they feel should be starting.
“I think the obvious debate is who plays between [Bukayo] Saka and Rashford. Saka played against Senegal and popped up with a goal, so you have to say that Gareth got that decision right.
“The difference between the two is that Saka is better defensively, he has played as a wing back over the years and he knows how to defend. He works hard and I think he is the perfect fit for what Gareth Southgate is looking for on the right of the pitch.
“Rashford doesn’t work as hard off the ball and Gareth likes players who put a shift in.”
Waddle also suggested that Newcastle striker Callum Wilson could pose a real threat as an impact substitute against France, if Les Bleus are forced to chase the game late on.
“Callum Wilson is a completely different player to Harry Kane,” he added.
“If England are winning against France and they are piling the pressure on, Wilson would be a good option to bring into the game because he can get in behind the French defence and hurt them with his pace.”
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