Winners and losers from England's March internationals - Ivan Toney
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Winners and losers from England’s March internationals

England continued their preparation for Euro 2024 with fixtures against Brazil and Belgium this month, a last chance for Gareth Southgate to run the rule over his squad ahead of this summer’s major tournament.

The fixtures marked final auditions for several squad members – and delivered mixed success.

We’ve looked at the winners and losers from England’s March internationals.

Winner: Kobbie Mainoo

An outstanding introduction to the international stage for the Manchester United midfielder, who proved he belongs at this level. After an eye-catching cameo against Brazil, he was handed a full England debut against Belgium and departed the pitch with the man-of-the-match award.

The 18-year-old appears unfazed by opposition or occasion, the sign of talent ready to make their mark at the highest level. Against Belgium, he showed lovely footwork in the build-up to England’s penalty and was full of energy and effective use of the ball. There’s such silk to Mainoo’s game.

He might be one for the future, but given England’s lack of options in central midfield, he could be for the here and now.

Loser: Ben Chilwell

Luke Shaw’s long-term injury handed Ben Chilwell the chance to stake his claim for a starting role at this summer’s major tournament, but it’s an audition that the Chelsea defender failed to pass.

Two ineffective performances have raised question marks over the left-back role, with Chilwell off the pace and poor in his use of the ball against Brazil. Things failed to improve much in the 2-2 draw with Belgium as he struggled to deal with Leandro Trossard and Dodi Lukebakio. Southgate will be hoping Shaw wins his race against time to make Euro 2024, given the lack of left-back options available for England.

Winner: Jarrod Bowen

Bright off the bench against Brazil, Bowen was rewarded with a start in the second fixture and again impressed in an England shirt. The West Ham winger is having an underrated season with 18 goals and seven assists in all competitions and looked at home on the international stage this month.

One brilliant solo run against Brazil saw Wembley acknowledge with applause, while he was a constant threat all evening against Belgium, giving Arthur Theate a torrid time. Bowen was unfortunate to see a first England goal ruled out for offside, though this was two strong performances from the 27-year-old. Given the wealth of attacking options available to Gareth Southgate, he needed to deliver and did.

Loser: Ollie Watkins

Suggestions that Ollie Watkins would not make this summer’s squad would have been laughed off before the break, but the race to secure a number nine role has heated up this month. Watkins has had a brilliant season at Aston Villa and leads the Premier League for goals and assists combined (26), but struggled to make an impact in the absence of Harry Kane against Brazil.

Forced to feed off scraps for much of the game, he blazed his sole opportunity over the crossbar when well placed. Watkins offers a different style to Kane, with more directness in terms of runs in behind and energy across the front, but will Southgate choose a more like-for-like option to support the England captain this summer?

Winner: Ivan Toney

Watkins’ struggle to state his case has opened the door for Ivan Toney, who marked his full England debut with a goal from the penalty spot against Belgium. The 28-year-old became the first Brentford player to score for the England national team, after winning and converting a spot-kick in customary cool fashion.

Toney has an innate self-confidence to thrive in an England shirt and looks unlikely to be overawed in the pressure of a major tournament. Stylistically, he appears the best alternative to Kane, while his excellence in the air could add another option should England need an impact from the bench. His form across the run-in will determine his chances of making the squad after a long absence from football this season, but having missed the 2022 World Cup under the cloud of his impending ban, he will be hell-bent on making the plane.

Loser: Lewis Dunk

A bad night for the Brighton captain against Belgium, as an awful error allowed Romelu Lukaku to set up the second goal. Having also struggled against the physical presence of Lukaku during Brighton’s Europa League exit to Roma last month, there are question marks as to whether the 32-year-old is cut out for the very top level.

Winner: Anthony Gordon

An encouraging full debut for the Newcastle winger, who was full of trademark positivity during the defeat to Brazil at Wembley.

Gordon combined well with Jude Bellingham down the left and forced Bento into a couple of saves, with his work rate sure to have pleased Southgate. Having starred as England’s u-21 side won the European Championship last summer – winning the Player of the Tournament Award – he will hope to have done enough to enter Southgate’s thoughts for Euro 2024.

Loser: Cole Palmer and Jarrad Branthwaite

Not a single minute for either player across the two fixtures. Two of the best young talents in the Premier League this season, but overlooked for England this month despite inclusion in the squad.

Odd, from the England manager.

Read – Full Euro 2024 lineup confirmed as Wales fall at the last hurdle

See more – Toney comments on Watkins ‘competition’ for England spot following ‘special night’

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