The Citizen (KZN)

Southgate is digging deep


London – England manager Gareth Southgate (above) shrugged off injuries in his squad ahead of a testing friendly against Belgium and said he’s looking forward to seeing his rookies “excel” ahead of the European Championsh­ips.

Despite a 1-0 loss to Brazil on Saturday to a goal from 17-year-old sensation Endrick, Southgate is desperate to see how his third-ranked team match-up against fourthrank­ed Belgium today.

“Similar to (Brazil) we’re talking about a high-level game, brilliant experience for the players, a chance to see new players again, build towards the summer,” said Southgate after the five-time world champions ended his side’s 10-match unbeaten run.

“We deliberate­ly took two really high-level games and of course we’ve had to put out a very different team to the one we might have envisaged.

“So, we’ve still learned an awful lot ahead of the summer that’s really important. You know, some of these boys are pushing for starting positions, some are pushing for places in the squad.

“You need to see them against that sort of level of opposition to see if they’re going to be able to excel in the summer.”

Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone have all withdrawn from an already depleted England squad ahead of the game with Belgium at Wembley.

Walker and Maguire started Saturday’s match but have now left Southgate’s squad, as has back-up goalkeeper Johnstone.

“Maguire, Walker and Johnstone have returned to their clubs, having sustained injuries in recent days,” the FA said in a statement.

Previously capped Rico Lewis of Manchester City, and uncapped Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford have been moved into the senior squad from England’s Under-21’s. –

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