Gareth Southgate handed Phil Foden his first FIFA World Cup start against Wales and the 21-year-old responded in style.
- The England fans where thrilled Phil Foden made their starting XI
- He responded by ending his two-year international goal drought
- Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Pickford hail the Manchester City star
How did it make sense? He hadn’t scored for England in 16 appearances and over two years.
Yet when the England starting XI was read over the loud speaker at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, the decibel levels rose highest to greet the name of Phil Foden.
The 21-year-old may have had several recent outings off the bench under Pep Guardiola and had to wait for his opportunity here under Gareth Southgate, but the fans unanimously yearned for him to start at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. So, too, did the pundits. Glenn Hoddle, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville, Michael Owen and Joe Cole had helped blow the clamor for his inclusion from a storm to a tsunami.
This mischievously-talented playmaker was, they argued, exactly what England needed to stand toe-to-toe with the Titans in this competition. Remember Paul Gascoigne decrypting the Dutch and the West Germans at Italia ’90? Foden could do the same in Qatar.
Ninety minutes in Al Rayyan firmly vindicated his promotion. Foden hip-shook his way past markers, conned opponents into conceding free-kicks, threaded piercing through-balls, and combined awareness and desire to end his long international goal drought.
“I said it the other day that Phil is an amazing talent,” said Kalvin Phillips. “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.
“And to pop up with a goal as well, such a crucial goal, I am very happy for him as he’s worked hard. We’ve got great players in this team, so it’s going to be hard for some people to get in, but when you stick at it, the rewards always come. I’m very happy for him.”
Jordan Pickford added: “Phil’s a top, top player. Everyone knows that. I’m buzzing he got his goal tonight.”
There was a big should he/shouldn’t he debate over whether Gascoigne should start at Italia ’90. ‘Gazza’ emphatically answered his critics. Surely, after this, Southgate will let Foden do the same.