Plus: Raheem Sterling’s chances of an England recall may just have improved after Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford fail to impress, while Ollie Watkins misses his opportunity in No 9 role
Sky Sports’ Rob Dorsett reflects on England’s questionable 1-1 draw against North Macedonia during the Euro qualifiers game.
England miss Bellingham
Image: Three goals but two own goals – England miss Jude Bellingham in attack
At the top of Gareth Southgate’s Christmas list may just be a fully fit and fluent Jude Bellingham for the summer.
In England’s final two Euro 2024 qualifiers, attacking rhythm was lacking and there weren’t enough goals. Two of their three strikes against Malta and North Macedonia came through own goals, after all.
Ultimately, England do not look as multi-geared as they are when Jude Bellingham plays. They needed those lung-bursting runs from nowhere that forced the two goals against Italy in October. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden showed flashes of quality in the No 8 roles, but little end product came through.
Image: England look better with Jude Bellingham on the pitch
This month has shown that Bellingham is needed in this England team just as much as Harry Kane. Both are arguably the best players in the world in their respective positions. Keeping them fit, firing and hungry in June is vital to England’s chances in Germany.
It’s Rico time! Lewis impresses on debut
Image: England manager Gareth Southgate hailed Rico Lewis' display
Rico Lewis has provided a timely solution to England’s left-sided problem.
The Man City teenager played with the composure and temperament of a 50-cap defender at left-back, let alone one making his debut.
Lewis, who turns 19 on Tuesday, didn’t allow a poor refereeing decision against him that led to North Macedonia’s goal to affect his performance.
Gareth Southgate cannot afford to take risks in his 23-man Euro 2024 squad which is where Lewis’ versatility may give him the edge over the injury-prone Ben Chilwell and even Luke Shaw.
What will also be key in Lewis’ selection is how often Pep Guardiola plays him this season. Perhaps Euro 2024 may prove to have come just too soon but Lewis will be a shoo-in for England squads of the future.
Sterling case strengthens after Grealish struggles
Image: Jack Grealish's goal for England against North Macedonia was ruled out for offside
While Rico Lewis seized his chance, Jack Grealish had a mixed night on the left flank.
The City duo combined nicely although Grealish’s output in the final third was more miss than hit.
His early second-half tap-in was ruled out for offside and later in the half, he overhit a cross when well-placed after being played in behind.
Marcus Rashford fared worse in his late cameo which also strengthened the case for Raheem Sterling to be recalled.
Sterling, who has been in better form than both this season, was already a shock omission from Gareth Southgate’s squad, but he will be impossible to ignore should he continue performing as he has.
Wasteful Watkins misses opportunity
Image: Ollie Watkins missed his chance to impress in Harry Kane's No 9 shirt
How many strikers get a chance to start ahead of a fully-fit Harry Kane for England in a competitive game?
Forty seconds passed between Kane entering the pitch to save the day and the England captain making an impact. Ollie Watkins’ chances of having a major role in Euro 2024 may have gone in that quick flash.
The Aston Villa forward was tasked with continuing his good club form away at North Macedonia but missed two decent chances in the first half – the second seeing him head inexplicably wide when unmarked in the box. Southgate then gave him 12 second-half minutes before turning to Kane.
Watkins still has his Euro 2024 chances in his hands – keep scoring by the bucketload at Villa and it’s hard to leave him out.
But before the 27-year-old gets another chance with England in March, Ivan Toney returns. Eddie Nketiah and Callum Wilson will come back from injury too. With 23 spots on the plane to Germany, it’s getting tense in the striker department.