Neville: Changes made 'basic' England better | Mainoo certain to start last-16 tie


Gareth Southgate’s second-half substitutions improved England’s lacklustre performance in their draw with Slovenia, with Kobbie Mainoo now sure to start the last-16 clash on Sunday, according to Gary Neville.

Despite winning Group C, England were largely frustrated by a disciplined Slovenia in Cologne in their final group game on Tuesday night and now face the prospect of taking on the Netherlands in their first knockout game on Sunday afternoon.

Having struggled to create any clear-cut openings in the first half at the RheinEnergieStadion, apart from having a Bukayo Saka strike ruled out for offside, Southgate made a change at half-time and brought on Mainoo in place of a disappointing Conor Gallagher.

The Manchester United midfielder made an impact in the second period, improving England’s stuttering display and Neville believes he will now definitely start Sunday’s last-16 clash in Gelsenkirchen.

Cole Palmer goes on the attack against Slovenia
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Cole Palmer goes on the attack against Slovenia

“Every time England made a change, they got better,” the former England defender told ITV Sport.

“I am certain Mainoo will start the next game. Southgate thought Gallagher was the option for the energy, but it was quite obvious we needed someone on there to get us playing and Adam Wharton is capable of doing that as well.”

As well as Mainoo, Southgate also introduced Cole Palmer in place of Saka with 20 minutes left to play, with the Chelsea forward also catching the eye by improving England’s attacking play.

“The more substitutions we made, the less rigid we looked. We looked so basic in the first half, it was a struggle to watch that and I think we moved forward in the second half,” Neville added.

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The more substitutions we made, the less rigid we looked – we looked so basic in the first half, it was a struggle to watch.

Gary Neville on ITV Sport

“We did not get the result, but there were glimpses of what we can be.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon also both came on late and Neville urged the England manager not to waste the talent he has in the squad.

“You mention Alexander-Arnold, Palmer, [Jude] Bellingham, Saka, Mainoo, [Phil] Foden – these are massive talents and we really cannot mishandle these talents, we really will regret it, and Gareth will as well,” said Neville.

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Gareth Southgate said fans are entitled to their opinion, but hearing boos at the end of a game creates an ‘unusual environment’ for the team

“All I would say ahead of Sunday is these lads are there and staring him in the face now, they have come on in the second half and improved us enormously. They are our best technical players and the ones who look the most comfortable on the ball and make us look like a team.

“We looked so basic in the first half and that is being kind. That is the rigid England we have seen in every single tournament going back 20 years and that second half looked like they were playing with a bit of flow.

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Anthony Gordon has urged England fans to stick with Gareth Southgate’s side after a couple of disappointing draws in Group C of Euro 2024

“We are the only country in the world where we regularly ask: ‘where can we fit this player into our team? Where is Bellingham going to fit in? How can we get him in? How are we going to get Foden, or Palmer in?

“Every other country seems to get them in, but we struggle to and we have to get them in.”

Roy Keane agreed with Neville about Mainoo and Palmer’s impact as second-half substitutions against Slovenia.

“Mainoo looked very comfortable on the ball, but the one I’m always excited about seeing is Palmer and I know we all wondered why he did not come on the first or second game,” said the former Republic of Ireland captain.

Cole Palmer replaces Bukayo Saka
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Palmer replaced Bukayo Saka in the second half

“But when he came on, every time he got the ball you thought something was going to happen, so there was certainly more flow to the game in the last 15-20 minutes, but still no end product and they did not really test the goalkeeper.

“But there were one or two positives, the clean sheet, but they need to show a little bit more quality in the attacking areas.”



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