Southgate welcomes selection headache as England cruise to warm-up win

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Southgate welcomes selection headache as England cruise to warm-up win

A much-improved second-half performance saw England cruise to a 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in their first Euro 2024 warm-up game at St James’ Park.

An England line-up that was likely much different to the one which will take to the field against Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener in 13 days’ time struggled to create against new Bosnia boss Sergej Barbarez’s defensive line-up before half-time.

Eberechi Eze and Cole Palmer had been two of few bright spots for Gareth Southgate to that point, but the Three Lions re-emerged from the dressing room energised – and eventually put their opponents to the sword.

Palmer netted a deserved opener, his first in England colours, from the spot on the hour mark after VAR noticed a shirt pull on Ezri Konsa in the area, before Trent Alexander-Arnold scored an exquisite second with a cushioned volley into the far corner.

Harry Kane, who came on moments after Palmer’s opener, added a late third with a typical poacher’s finish, celebrating his 90th England cap by poking home from a corner to give the hosts a margin of victory which slightly flattered their performance.

After the game, Southgate admitted the performance of some players had given him a “selection headache” ahead of Friday’s deadline to pick his final 26-man squad.

“That’s a good thing,” he told Channel 4. “I’d rather have good performances that make you think rather than poor performances. There were lots of individual things I was pleased with.”

England player ratings

England: Pickford (6), Konsa (7), Dunk (6), Guehi (6), Trippier (6), Alexander-Arnold (8), Gallagher (7), Eze (8), Palmer (8), Bowen (6), Watkins (6).

Subs: Kane (7), Maddison (7), Wharton (6), Grealish (7), Branthwaite (6).

In his post-match press conference, he later added: “We’re still discussing [the final squad] as a staff. It’s a decision that we understand the significance of for all of the players, so we’re giving it the respect it deserves to make fair, right decisions.

“Of course, it’s always going to be subjective, and we’ve got to balance what we need in every area of the pitch as well.
That’s the added complication, it’s not just getting the best individuals in, there’s a positional element to it too.

“We’ve got really good options, and we’ve come through tonight without any physical issues which was really important.”

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Following England’s 3-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina Gareth Southgate says he’s looking for ‘balance’ in his final Euros squad.

How England improved to dismantle defensive Bosnia

Southgate’s line-up, four days before he selects his final 26 to take to Germany, was experimental – but the England manager’s pre-match message was clear. Show you can play our way.

England were largely determined to play through the thirds from the start but struggled to create against a Bosnia five-man backline set up to, successfully, frustrate their hosts.

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Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett assesses the performances of the fringe players bidding for a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euros squad.

England’s best moment of the first half was architected by Palmer, who turned with his first touch and fed Watkins into the box with his second before the forward was denied by Nikola Vasilj at his near post.

The lack of intensity commonplace in pre-tournament friendlies was evident when Marc Guehi presented Bosnia’s finest chance to Haris Hajradinovic with a poor pass, which the Kasimpasa forward saw deflected behind from 20 yards.

England were sorely lacking tempo but Southgate retained belief his starting line-up could provide it after half-time, and resisted the chance of making changes at the break.

Cole Palmer scores his penalty for his first England goal

Image: Cole Palmer’s penalty was his first goal for England

He was rewarded with a second 45 minutes of near one-way traffic from his side, who could have netted an instant opener when Watkins headed over a corner.

Palmer saw a shot blocked from another pacy move before he was handed the perfect opportunity to net a debut England goal once VAR spotted a shirt pull on Konsa at a corner – and he continued his excellent form from the spot by beating Vasilj from 12 yards.

Kane was soon introduced alongside a number of other more experienced England players, with the regular England captain twice wayward before Alexander-Arnold fired in England’s second.

How did England’s Euro 2024 rivals get on?

Euro 2024 hosts Germany were held to a 0-0 draw by Ukraine, failing to find the back of the net despite registering 27 shots against their visitors.

Croatia made lighter work of facing North Macedonia, with Lovro Majer’s double helping them to a 3-0 win in Rijeka.

Former Chelsea midfielder Marco Pasalic added a second-half third for the hosts.

The Liverpool man had started in central midfield before moving to right-back, and popped up at the back post to cushion a superb volley back across goal from a tight angle from Jack Grealish’s cross.

That cushion was a fair reflection of England’s improvement but Kane’s late third showed their intimidating potency in attack.

Jarrod Bowen was denied a first international goal when his effort from a short corner was blocked by Konsa, but Kane made no mistake in forcing the loose ball home to net his 63rd strike in England colours.

Harry Kane and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate England's win

Image: Harry Kane and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate England’s win

Few questions were answered by England’s evening overall, but the performances of Eze and Palmer did their hopes of a spot in Germany little harm – with one final chance to impress against Iceland at Wembley on Friday.

Southgate: We had to be patient

England manager Gareth Southgate speaking to Channel 4:

“We had an opponent who was dogged and determined so there was a good tempo to the game. It was a good workout. We had to be patient. In the end the scoreline reflected the performance.

“Once you break the resistance the confidence comes and we started with a team without many caps on the field there was always a chance of a sticky start.

“Both [Palmer and Eze] were very good. They played with freedom. Eze has got a lovely movement and power to go past people. I’m happy. I thought Cole was trying to be too precise to get the touch before the shot. If he got his shot away a little earlier, he could have had a couple of goals himself.

“Our plan was half an hour today [for Kane] and he’ll start on Friday. He’s trained all week. He looks in good shape.

“We’ve got through the last few days with no big problems. That’s important. We needed to get through these matches and the finals to have a clearer picture. The guys who have been rehabbing have been progressing well.”

On selection headaches: “A little bit. That’s a good thing. I’d rather have good performances that make you think rather than poor performances. There were lots of individual things I was pleased with.”

Bowen: World Cup omission makes me want place more

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Jarrod Bowen admits he had nerves ahead of England’s match against Bosnia and Herzegovina as he bids to secure a spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euros squad.

England forward Jarrod Bowen speaking to Sky Sports News:

Second half especially, I think it’s important with the energy and intensity that we play at that we can really wear teams down – we could’ve scored even more on another day.

“I’ve had one disallowed from VAR, now my own man blocking one on the line! Hopefully it’ll come, I’ll keep getting into the right positions. We had a little joke about it, but if I keep getting into the right positions I’ll score one day.

“I think there’s a bad omen, there was the Belgium one where I didn’t realise there was VAR for a friendly, and tonight it’s a massive part of my game but there’s other parts I want to as well.”

On missing out on World Cup 2022 squad: “It makes you want it [more], but you’ve got to find that balance of not doing too much – you’ll always have nerves, it means you care about something, but that’s normal.

“I don’t know if I’m a better player, but I think I’m just more mature. That comes with age, the games that you’ve played, confidence with each game and every opportunity you get.

“I feel like I’m in a different headspace as a player, but more confident with these big occasions. It’s still only my eighth cap, but I’ve been in and around the camps long enough to know what it takes to play at this level.

“Every time I get this opportunity, it’s about trying to do everything that I didn’t manage before. We’ll see.”

The key dates for England

All times BST

Friday June 7 – International friendly, England vs Iceland at Wembley, kick-off 7.45pm

Friday June 7 – Final 26-player squad submitted to UEFA

Saturday June 8 – Final 26-player squad announced

Monday June 10 – England squad fly to Germany

Saturday June 16 – Serbia vs England, Gelsenkirchen, kick-off 8pm

Thursday June 20 – Denmark vs England, Frankfurt, kick-off 5pm

Tuesday June 25 – England vs Slovenia, kick-off 8pm

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