Former England striker Wayne Rooney has insisted that Phil Foden is England’s “best footballer” and urges Gareth Southgate to start the midfielder in the Three Lions’ final group game against Wales on Tuesday.
Foden was an unused substitute in England’s goalless draw on Friday night as Southgate’s side failed to unlock a resilient USA defence, and managed 20 minutes off the bench in the opening 6-2 win over Iran.
In his column for The Times, England and Manchester United’s record goalscorer has insisted that Foden is unleashed in the final group game against Wales.
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“I found it very strange that Foden did not come on as a substitute against the USA,” Rooney explained. “And as I wrote in these pages before the tournament, he would be a key part of my starting XI if I were the England boss. Technically, he is the best footballer England have.
“I think if you have a talent like Foden, you simply have to play him. He is now a different player from the one we saw at Euro 2020, when he struggled to make an impact.
“He is more mature and came into this tournament on the back of a long period of brilliant performances for Manchester City.
“He has the form to go with the ability. If I were him, I would be very frustrated that I didn’t get on the pitch at any stage of Friday’s game.”
AL KHOR, QATAR – NOVEMBER 25: Phil Foden of England reacts in the dugout prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Image credit: Eurosport
Foden enjoyed an electric start to the season with Man City, scoring seven goals in 14 Premier League games, including a hat-trick against Rooney’s former side in the Manchester derby, and registering three assists.
After he struggled to make an impact last summer at Euro 2020 Foden has slipped down Southgate’s pecking order behind the likes of Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish.
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One player that has remained key to his side and kept his place despite a poor run of club form is Harry Maguire, and Rooney praised Southgate for his decision to stick with the Man Utd centre-back following his impressive performance against USA.
“[Maguire] was England’s standout player on Friday and had an excellent game against Iran, showing the quality on the ball, sound defending and unmistakable threat at set pieces that makes him so important to the team.”
England face a home nations clash with Wales on Tuesday night in their final group game and must avoid losing by four goals or more to qualify for the knockout stages.
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