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“Can’t believe his age” – Gareth Southgate on Kobbie Mainoo’s first England start

England manager Gareth Southgate has praised 18-year-old midfielder Kobbie Mainoo stating he “can’t believe his age” following his first start for England.

Ahead of the Euros this summer, England played Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Wembley.

The game went the opposite of how many fans would expect with a last-ditch attack by Jude Bellingham being the only saving-grace of the evening

This comes after England found themselves trailing behind within 11 minutes of the match after an error by Jordan Pickford saw Youri Tielemans start the scoresheet.

Ivan Toney then pushed England back on level terms adding his first goal for England in his first start through a penalty.

But an error by another England player, this time Lewis Dunk, saw Tielemans exploit England once again making it 1-2.

It was Bellingham who rose to the occasion however and saved England the embarrassment of losing twice at Wembley in a matter of days with a last minute goal to leave it 2-2.

“Can’t believe his age”

The game proved a vital oppurtunity for England’s best and brightest to impress Southgate with it being the final match before the Euros squad announcement this summer.

Whilst several established stars of the squad left many fans feeling underwhelmed, it was the recent 18-year-old Manchester United academy graduate who wowed on the international stage.

His performance was so highly regarded he was awarded Man of the Match despite only playing 75 minutes of the game.

Mainoo had a less conventional England call-up than most.

He had been excluded from the original squad announcement as it looked as if the youngster would have to wait a while longer until he made his international debut.

However, the following day England made the shock announcement that Kobbie Mainoo would join the rest of the England team for the duration of the international break.

Mainoo did play in Saturday’s (23rd March) game 0-1 against Brazil after coming on for Connor Gallagher in the 75th minute.

However, it was the game against Belgium the Englishman really shone as he made his starting debut for his country

Gareth Southgate had particular praise towards the youngster’s performance and contribution to the England squad.

Speaking to Sky Sports Southgate said: “Kobbie’s attributes are there for everyone to see. The ability to receive under pressure and ride challenges, to manipulate the ball in tight areas.

“He gives us a different profile in midfield to anything we’ve got, he’s adapted and adjusted brilliantly. You can’t believe his age really, that he’s taken everything in his stride in as he has.”

England has “more depth” to come

Elsewhere in his post-match conference to Sky Sports, Southgate applauded the depth of the England squad when choosing who will play in the Euros this summer.

Southgate had this to say on the his selection depth: “There’s definitely some players who have merged positively from the opportunities they’ve had. 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 with the real heat of the season to come, with the intensity of the games and what’s resting on them, we won’t know what we’re left with until right at the end.

“There’s so many unknowns about the 23 in terms of who might be available. These performances were important to see whether the players could play against high-level opposition.

“But equally how they play in their games between now and the end of the season in big matches will have a high tariff too.”

Throughout international break Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, Sam Johnstone and Harry Maguire have all picked up injuries that made them unavailable for the Belgium friendly.

Elsewhere, Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Reece James, Marc Guess, Levi Colwill, Tyrone Mings, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish and Callum Wilson had all been absent from England duties due to injuries picked up prior to international break.

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