Bellingham: Negatives to rub out but more to come from England

Jude Bellingham knows England have some “negatives to rub out” but believes there is more to come as he focused on the positives after Gareth Southgate’s side dug deep to win Sunday’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia.

Among the favourites to triumph in Germany having finished runners-up three years ago, they flew out the blocks in Gelsenkirchen as they began this summer’s quest for glory.

Bellingham’s powerful early header put dominant England in control, but Serbia stepped up after the break and Southgate’s side were made to sweat as they saw out a 1-0 win.

The result puts them top of Group C and Sunday’s man of the match batted back the suggestion that the first half showed why they can win the Euros and second period why they may fall just short.

“No, not quite – I don’t agree with that,” Bellingham said. “I think the first half shows why we can score goals against any team, and the second half shows why we can keep a clean sheet against any team.

“I think obviously, commonly with the team, there’s a negative theme around all our games. You know, sometimes rightly so. But I think in this case you take the positives from the fact that, OK, maybe we had to hold on at times and suffer a little bit, but we kept a clean sheet.

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Lee Hendrie analyses England’s performance as Gareth Southgate’s side beat Serbia 1-0 in their Euro 2024 opener

“When you keep clean sheet all you have to do is score one goal to win the game. It’s three points, I think this team is still so new, gelling together with every game.

“So, yeah, I think inside the changing room we’ll be happy with that. Of course, there will be negatives that we want to kind of rub out but overall I’m pleased with that performance.”

It’s not a role he’s done much before but he showed great discipline and moments of his fabulous passing range. We’re learning with him in this role and he showed some of the attributes we want. Whoever we play in there, we’ll be playing a young or inexperienced player in there. It was great to see him come through this test.

England boss Gareth Southgate on Trent Alexander-Arnold

‘I feel I can impact and decide games’

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Jude Bellingham’s goal celebration with Trent Alexander-Arnold against Serbia explained!

Bellingham starred as England won a fourth straight tournament opener, showing strength, skill and confidence against physical opponents.

Put to the 20-year-old that he seems unfazed as he looks to help the Euro 2020 runners-up go one better, he said: “I just enjoy playing football.

“When it comes to each and every game, I take it as a single game, as opposed to looking too far into the future. I realise that in every game I feel like I can make an impact, I feel like I can decide games.

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England fans across the country celebrate Jude Bellingham’s goal in their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia

“But that happens on any given game instead of looking too far into the future.

“The truth is that I really enjoy playing football, so when I go out there I play with the fearlessness because I love doing it so much.

“It’s a release for me and it’s my favourite thing to do in the world, so when I play, it’s not much of a job. It feels like a pleasure.”

Southgate: Bellingham ‘writes his own script’ as he lifts England to opening win

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Lee Hendrie describes Jude’s Bellingham’s performance in England’s victory over Serbia as ‘remarkable’

Southgate said star midfielder Bellingham “writes his own script” after helping England make a winning start to the tournament.

“Look, this team is still coming together,” manager Southgate said. “Everybody is expecting us to waltz through but there is a lot of hard work ahead.

Image: Jude Bellingham starred in England’s 1-0 win over Serbia at Euro 2024

“We’re short of certain things, we’re finding best possible solutions.

“We’ve had a very complicated run-in to all of this, but the spirit of the group was there for everybody to see tonight and we’ll definitely grow from that.”

Jude is an unbelievable player. He deserves all the praise, the confidence he plays with and the way he affects games. It’s important for players that play in his position to get goals and assists. He finished it off nicely.

England captain Harry Kane on Bellingham

Bellingham epitomised the spirit and skill England will need to go deep in the tournament, with Southgate full of praise for the matchwinner.

“He writes his own script,” he told the BBC. “The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.

Image: Jude Bellingham celebrates after heading England in front against Serbia

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back five, it is not easy to create chances and we did.

“I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week at doing that.”

Bellingham and Southgate positive after midfield experiment

Bellingham played in a midfield three on Sunday with Declan Rice and Alexander-Arnold, who has been converted from right-back, against Serbia.

Whether that balance is right will be debated ahead of Thursday’s match against Denmark, but Bellingham saw promise from the Liverpool man and quality in the Arsenal midfielder.

“I loved it,” Bellingham said. “I think we had a great balance with the ball, without the ball, particularly in possession I thought Trent was brilliant.

“He conducts games so well. He’s very calm on the ball. His technique and qualities unmatched, I think, in terms of what he can do with the ball.

“He’s always positive and that really helps someone like me who wants to get on the ball all over the pitch and try and attack their backline.

“So, I look forward to having more minutes with him, enjoying how we can develop and how we can get used to each other’s game, and seeing how far we can take the potential.

“And of course, as always, Dec was fantastic. I think he’s one of the best in the world in that position. He’s a joy.”

Southgate was also pleased with how his Alexander-Arnold experiment went, praising the Liverpool star’s performance.

“I was really pleased,” he said. “Of course, Jude has such a prominent role, but he goes forward a lot and Trent had to cover a lot of spaces. That is not a role he’s done very often at all.

“I thought he showed great discipline. He showed some moments of that fabulous passing range that he has, the shot on goal as well.

“We’re obviously learning with him in this role, but I thought he showed some of the attributes that he can bring.

“Whatever we do in there, we’re going to be playing a young player or an inexperienced player, so it was great to see him come through that test.”

‘England need to find a way to change things’

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Paul Merson admits he was ‘bored’ by large parts of England’s performance in their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“What we saw has been the norm for the last few years now.

“England started so well. For the first 15 minutes or so they were outstanding. They were patient, passed the ball well and there was plenty of movement. There was a lot of good play.

“They then got the goal and then got bored. They got bored of keeping the ball. We started losing possession and giving the ball away cheaply and it allowed Serbia to get on top towards the end of the first half.

Image: Harry Kane evades a challenge from Nikola Milenkovic

“Luckily, half-time came for England but they never really got going again after the break. Towards the end of the game, I thought the players were hiding. There’s was no-one who really wanted the ball like a Bellingham did while he was on the pitch.

“We never seem to know how to change things in a game. We start games well and then everything slows down and we don’t play so well, but we can never get that from not good to good again. It stays at that level for the rest of the game.

“We’ve got to learn and find a way to change things. However, this is a good result. There’s still a lot to be worked on, but it’s three points and with the other game a draw, we are in control of the group.

“What it probably has done is brought the fans down a peg or two, including me. This won’t be as easy as I thought it was going to be for England.”

Analysis: Familiar concerns emerge for England

Image: Phil Foden had a tricky evening against Serbia

Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:

“England fans have seen this match before. A fast start followed by the team relinquishing control and Southgate sitting on his subs has become a familiar pattern. Against Serbia – and on plenty of previous occasions – England have found a way to get over the line. But it’s hardly a recipe for tournament glory.

“England went from convincing to concerning in this opening game. The authority and dominance of the opening half hour turned to panic by the end, as Serbia stepped it up.

“For all the talk about England’s attacking assets in this squad, they were once again dropping deep and hanging on for the final whistle. It was hardly the hallmark of European champions in waiting.

“But three points are on the board. A place in the knockouts is almost assured. And there is time to find a way to play with their early swagger for 90 minutes. But that approach has to come from the top. Southgate needs to set that tone.”

The key dates for England

Image: Kane had a frustrating evening against Serbia

All times BST

Thursday June 20 – Denmark vs England, Frankfurt, kick-off 5pm

Tuesday June 25 – England vs Slovenia, kick-off 8pm

Source : Sky Sports