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Man City player Phil Foden’s goal for England under-21 shows where next challenge lies – Stuart Brennan


Apart from his brilliant solo goal, the abiding memory of Phil Foden ’s breezy display for England under-21s is of him urgently beckoning for the ball.

Playing in the left-sided David Silva role which Manchester City hope he will take in the next couple of years, the 19-year-old cut a desperate figure at times.

With holding midfielder Hamza Choudhury, Ryan Sessegnon or Jay Dasilva on the ball, Foden could be seen repeatedly gesturing for the ball to be played into his feet, despite being surrounded by blue-shirted France players.

On the odd occasions he did get the ball in tight spaces, he used it well, not least for his goal.

Perhaps frustrated at not getting the ball in his usual position between the lines of the French defence and midfield, he popped out and picked up a pass from James Maddison.

As if to prove a point, he then carried the ball directly into a small square made up of opponents before slaloming out of it with a sharp turn of pace and some helter-skelter ball control, before finding the coolest of finishes.

Obviously it was all instinctive with Foden – the kind of thing he was doing as a nine-year-old, and wowing the watching academy head Jim Cassell at the old Platt Lane training complex.

But it also served as a reminder to teammates that giving him the ball in seemingly impossible situations is never a problem to the Stockport lad – it is an opportunity.

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His trademark turn-and-go has become well-known, ever since he inflicted it on Manchester United star Ander Herrera during a pre-season friendly derby in Texas two summers ago.

But he uses it sparingly these days, always keeping markers guessing whether he will try to slip straight past them, go off in an entirely different direction or find a teammate with a slipped pass.

Foden has been promoted to the under-21s after his dazzling displays as England won the Under-17 World Cup two summers ago.

That means he is now playing alongside established Premier League stars at international level as well as when he is dipped in and out of the stellar City team.

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Phil Foden's goalscoring feat against Newport County was a milestone in his development
Phil Foden’s goalscoring feat against Newport County was a milestone in his development

Whether Choudhury and Co. do not possess the technical capacity, or the nerve, to slip passes into the demanding but slightly-built will o’th’wisp figure surrounded by hulking opponents, or whether they simply did not trust Foden, is unclear.

Foden has had a similar problem at times when playing for City alongside senior colleagues like Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva – players who have the capability and the nerve to play into tight spaces.

But with a match to be won, giving the ball to the proven world-class star rather than the raw-edged teenager, is a no-brainer.

But Foden is gaining that trust.

He passed a milestone in that regard when he took a difficult FA Cup game at Newport by the scruff of the neck with two goals, despite sharing the toughest part of the pitch with Silva, and later Ilkay Gundogan.

And his goal for England should see him past another challenge at international level – he has gone from being the new kid to being the match-winner, someone who, when they demand the ball, needs to get it.

 



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