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Gareth Southgate hails Jude Bellingham’s ‘competitive spirit’ after late goal

Gareth Southgate hails Jude Bellingham’s ‘competitive spirit’ after late goal

Gareth Southgate praised Jude Bellingham’s never-say-die attitude after saving England from defeat against Belgium at the end of an international break that provides plenty of food for thought ahead of the Euros.

Among the favourites for glory this summer, the side third in FIFA’s world rankings stepped up preparations with a pair of high-level friendlies against the nations directly behind them in those standings.

Brazil are fifth and struck late on Saturday to inflict a first defeat on England in 15 months, which fourth-placed Belgium looked set to compound at rainy Wembley three days later.

Youri Tielemans opened the scoring after a Jordan Pickford error, with a Lewis Dunk mistake resulting in the Aston Villa midfielder scoring again after Ivan Toney had converted a penalty on his first senior start.

Fellow full debutants Ezri Konsa and, in particular, 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo also impressed in a friendly that ended 2-2 after Bellingham struck at the end of second half stoppage time.

“I liked it because I know the rubbish we would have got if we lost two games on the bounce,” the Real Madrid midfielder told Channel 4.

“These are two games that are going to stand us in good stead going into the Euros. I know people will be negative but you have to take these games for what they are.

“You’ve got to keep perspective. We had a lot of lads making debuts (this week) and a lot of lads I’ve never played with. We created a lot of chances. I should have scored (previously). I was happy I could make it up to the team.”

Jude Bellingham secured England a draw (Adam Davy/PA)

England boss Southgate told the post-match press conference: “Jude, of course, is the headline.

“That competitive spirit, that desire not to lose, desire to win in the end, was decisive in getting the late goal.

“But I thought the whole team showed that throughout the game and recovered from setbacks with a pretty inexperienced team, really, against a team that have got some very, very good players. Very pleased with a lot of what I saw tonight.”

Bellingham pulled the Euro 2024 hopefuls through at the end of a challenging international meet-up marred by injuries.

Kobbie Mainoo, centre, impressed for England (Mike Egerton/PA)

John Stones joined England’s eye-watering absentee list when limping off with an adductor issue within 10 minutes on Tuesday, when Mainoo’s man-of-the-match performance was among a number of impressive displays.

“The great thing is definitely some players have emerged positively from the opportunities they’ve had,” Southgate said reflecting on the Brazil and Belgium friendlies.

“We’ve perhaps got more depth in one respect, but the injuries are a concern. We’ve got so many players missing at the moment, and we’ve still got the real heat of the season to come, with the intensity of the games, what’s resting on the games.

“We’re not going to know what we’re left with until right until the end but we’ll just have to make the best decisions that we possibly can.”

Southgate praised Toney, Jarrod Bowen and James Maddison for their attacking impact against Belgium, while Anthony Gordon has also earned plaudits during the week.

Southgate has plenty to mull over ahead of announcing his provisional squad on May 21, which has to be whittled down to a 23-man group by June 8.

“In terms of knowing the 23, there’s so many unknowns at the moment in terms of who might be available,” Southgate said.

“So, yes, these performances were very important for players to be able to see whether or not they could play against high level opposition.

“But equally the way they play between now and the end of the season with their club, in big matches is going to have a high tariff as well so we will track all of that.”

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