Gareth Southgate insists he loves ‘super’ Phil Foden

Gareth Southgate has insisted he “loves” Phil Foden ahead of England’s final Group B game against Wales and claims the Manchester City star has a big role to play in the World Cup.

Foden remained on the bench for the tie against the United States, which has put pressure on Southgate to start him on Tuesday night.

Southgate dismissed any suggestion that he has a problem with Foden, telling ITV: “We love Phil, he’s a super player. He was in the first game, we decided not to put him in the second. But he will play an important role for us in this tournament, there’s no question about that.

“We don’t have a problem with Phil. In September he started both games for us and we put him in the game against Iran. We decided to stay with this team and we felt that the changes for the US called for something different

“But we intend to stay here as long as possible. And he’s a super player and we think the world of him. And he will play a big role.

“He can play both wings. He can play as a false nine. He can play behind a striker, he doesn’t do that very often for his club. He works hard for the team and of course has fabulous technical skills.”

“We will always give players the freedom to express themselves”

Southgate was again accused of being too cautious, but the England manager responded by saying: “We’ve been unbeaten 22 games in the last 18 months and it’s never stopped. I just have to focus on preparing the team as much as possible. Keeping the team calm through all the noise that goes on in a tournament.

“We will always give players the freedom to express themselves. If you speak to any of them, they would articulate that. But of course you play against opponents who prevent you from doing so.

“Our experience with tournaments was helpful. The players know we’re on track. We’re in a good position to qualify, a good position to win the group and that has to be our goal for the next few days.”

When asked if he’s enjoying the World Cup so far, Southgate added: “Yes, absolutely. It’s an amazing challenge and a great life experience. It’s my fourth World Cup as a player and coach. It’s not just our games that are great occasions, you look at all the other games and it reminds you that this is where every player or coach wants to be.”

Wales need to win to qualify for the last 16 after their defeat by Iran and Southgate said: “We’re going to play a side that’s injured. Who will have a very high motivation to beat us.

“We have to be tactically correct and find our best level. We have to make sure we’re composed, but also that we’re playing with real attacking power.”

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