England must “hunt down” teams like Belgium to become world’s best, says Southgate

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Manager Gareth Southgate says England must “hunt down” teams like top-ranked Belgium if they are to become the best side in the world.

Southgate’s side take on Belgium in Sunday’s Nations League match.

England reached the inaugural finals of the competition in Portugal last year but currently trail Belgium by two points in Group A2.

The Three Lions came from behind to beat Belgium 2-1 at Wembley in October before suffering a 1-0 loss to Denmark.

“They’re a fantastic team and they’ve proven that over a long period of time,” said Southgate. “But our aim is to be the best team in the world and we’ve got to hunt these teams down.

“We were able to do it at Wembley. We saw what a top side they are there so we know that we had to be at our very best with and without the ball to get that result.

“That will be the same [on Sunday] but we’re not fearful. We’ve got to go into the game with a very positive mindset. We know that we can hurt teams, we’ve got players who can score goals, and we know we’ve conceded two in our last nine games so we’re an improving team.”

Kane set to make 50th appearance

England players ahead of the friendly against the Republic of Ireland
Harry Kane has scored 32 goals in 49 appearances for England

Defenders Harry Maguire and Reece James serve one-match bans, while Liverpool’s Joe Gomez has had surgery to repair a tendon in his left knee.

Centre-back Conor Coady had to leave the camp after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is ruled out through injury.

Midfielder James Ward-Prowse and forward Marcus Rashford will also be unavailable for England, with hamstring and shoulder injuries respectively.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane will captain the side in what will be his 50th appearance.

“We can do any tactical formation but the reality is we’ve still lost three defenders for this game so however we do it, we’re having to readjust,” said Southgate.

“We are having to do that all the time. It says something when one of the biggest enjoyments of the week was hearing there were no positive tests this morning!”

Belgium will be without captain Eden Hazard and goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, who both tested positive for Covid-19.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne is expected to return after missing the 2-1 victory over Iceland last month.

The best of the stats

  • Belgium and England have won two matches each in their six previous competitive meetings.
  • England are looking to record consecutive wins against Belgium for the first time since victories under Kevin Keegan (1999) and Roy Hodgson (2012).
  • They have only suffered one defeat from their 11 previous trips to Belgium (W9 D1), a 2-3 defeat in May 1936.
  • Belgium have suffered just one defeat in their past 16 matches across all competitions (W14, D1), though that was against England at Wembley last month. Indeed, Belgium haven’t lost any of their past 23 games on home soil since a 0-2 defeat by Spain in September 2016 (W18 D5).
  • This match will be Roberto Martinez’s 50th game in charge of Belgium since he took the job in August 2016 (W38 D7 L4), with the Spaniard the first manager to reach this milestone for them since Guy Thys’ first spell in charge from 1976 to 1989.
  • Only Romelu Lukaku (38) has scored more international goals for Belgium since Roberto Martinez’s first game in charge than Michy Batshuayi (18), who has netted nine times in his past eight appearances.
  • Jack Grealish has assisted in his past two England appearances, with Jordan Henderson the most recent player to do so in three in a row in September 2017.

BBC

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