Hard-hitting at Manchester City, decisive once on the pitch during this World Cup, Phil Foden has all the qualities to have a great career. Starting with winning an international trophy at the most prestigious of competitions – that is, if he features in England’s plans.
“I think I have every chance to start the next game. I played well against Wales, but we’ll have to see what happens,” Phil Foden said optimistically when asked about his possible inclusion among England’s starting XI against France.
Not short of attacking options, it must be said that Gareth Southgate has plenty to ponder for the upcoming quarter-final against France. Against the Blues, there may be a need for the speed and ability that the Mancunian possesses in order to break the French defensive lines.
A certain talent not suitable for all opponents?
“He creates chances, scores goals and gives you control (over the game). When you have the ball he knows how to keep it and usually makes the right choice, and when you lose it he knows how to press,” said Wayne Rooney of Foden.
From this point of view, it does indeed seem strange that the 22-year-old has not always been part of England’s starting line-up since the start of the World Cup.
In four games, Phil Foden was a substitute twice and was benched in the third game. This supposed snub annoyed him, prompting some English supporters to speculate as to whether there was a problem between the coach and his player.
Against the United States, for example, where the Americans were killing the game, the creativity of the attacking midfielder might have helped England make the breakthrough.
However, the England tactician claimed that “it was not a match for him, in the centre, because that is not the position he occupies at his club”.
But the excuse for Phil Foden’s positioning can be argued, given that he has no difficulty playing on the sides, even with Manchester City. Utilising Foden against the USA – and at least trying something different – may have unlocked the match that ultimately ended in a 0-0 draw.
Decisive against Wales, holder against France?
Against England’s nearest neighbours Wales, Phil Foden played 90 good minutes and even scored the second goal of the game.
But that was not enough for Gareth Southgate to keep him on the pitch this past Sunday against Senegal. Failing to be impactful, Foden gave way to club teammate Jack Grealish in the 65th minute, despite notching up an assist for Harry Kane.
For him to find success against Les Bleus, Foden must favour efficiency over creativity.
England will need all the physical and tactical resources necessary to overcome the defending world champions. Otherwise, he will likely remain on the bench until his speed and technical skills are required.
But let the fans of the Three Lions, Manchester City and Phil Foden himself be reassured.
This false 9 has plenty of time to progress quietly at the highest level. At only 22 years old, he already has 21 caps for England, as well as numerous domestic trophies at City.
He is only at the beginning of his career, and will no doubt have the opportunity to continue developing and cement his place with England in the near future.