Why didn’t Phil Foden play vs USA? Gareth Southgate explains reasons for omitting England star at World Cup

Gareth Southgate says he overlooked Phil Foden as an option to unlock to USA defensive line on Friday, insisting the Manchester City man wasn’t the right fit in the centre of the park.

Foden watched from the bench as Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish replaced Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka in the England attack for their second World Cup group game, while Mason Mount played the full 90 minutes behind Harry Kane.

Southgate has faced criticism for being too conservative since England reached the Euro 2020 final two summers ago and, having demolished Iran 6-2 on Monday, the goalless draw with USA in Qatar came as a reality check.

Indeed, the Three Lions offered very little going forward and had to dig in to secure even a point. And Southgate insists it wasn’t the right game for 22-year-old Foden, who has eight goals for City already this season.

More from Football

“Phil Foden is fine,” Southgate said. “We’ve got some very good forwards that we can bring into the game. In the wide areas we decided on Jack [Grealish] and Marcus [Rashford] instead of Phil because we thought their different attributes were what would help us get over the line.

“They weren’t able to find that missing spark but we know Phil is a super player and whichever one I didn’t put on, if we didn’t score, we were going to get asked about which one we didn’t put on.

“[It was a] totally different game, so [we’re] pleased with the way we played from the back. They make it difficult to build and our two centre backs I don’t think people appreciate how good they are. They dictated play tonight.”

The frustration from within the Al Bayt Stadium was evident at full time as England were booed by a small section of their supporters. Asked what was lacking in the Three Lions’ blunt attack, captain Kane said: “Being clinical, a complete contrast to Iran. We had two or three opportunities and didn’t put it away. We were playing a tough team and we move on.

“They pressed well, they made it difficult. At times we dealt with it well, we respect them. A draw isn’t bad for us. We look forward to the next one.

“We know we can play better than that, a draw in a World Cup isn’t bad, no game is easy. After our first performance people think we’ll landslide everything but it’s not the case. We played a good side but it’s not what we came here for.”

Southgate’s side looked leggy on Friday evening, four days on from their stroll in the park against Iran, and the boss now has to prepare his troops for another draining game against Wales on Tuesday.

His centre-back Harry Maguire, who impressed in the heart of defence, conceded England “weren’t ruthless enough in the final third”.

And the TV and radio pundits weren’t too impressed by the boss’ selection choices either.

Speaking on ITV, Gary Neville said: “I was disappointed not to see Foden. For me that talent is huge – I’ve not seen anything like that. I know we’ve got [Jude] Bellingham, we’ve got [Jack] Grealish, we’ve got others, and Gareth prefers Mount, Saka and Sterling at the moment.

“But for me, for Foden not to be in the starting XI, and to not come off the bench, is interesting.”

Neville added: “We’ve got a couple of talents there sat on the bench in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Foden. Alexander-Arnold has some of the best deliveries you’ll ever see from a full-back.

Southgate couldn’t get his England players motoring properly against USA on Friday (Photo: Getty)

“Those two not coming off the bench was a little bit disappointing. If you’re going to try and win the game, they’re world-class talents.”

Indeed, it was sentiment reflected on the airwaves too, with Micah Richards saying on BBC Radio 5 Live: “We talk about creativity, who is the first player that comes to mind? It’s Phil Foden.

“Mason Mount didn’t have his greatest game today and I don’t want to blame on him but it was a game where we couldn’t get the rotations going and get the passing quick enough, and we had one of our best talented players on the bench. I couldn’t understand it.

“It is not about one player making the difference but how many times do we see him, week in week out, get in those little pockets and make something out of nothing. For him to not come onto the pitch tonight was a massive mistake.”

Leave a Comment