England v Belgium: Jadon Sancho & Tammy Abraham available for Nations League

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Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham
England last met Belgium in the third-place play-off at the 2018 World Cup

England forwards Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham are available for Sunday’s Nations League game against Belgium.

Chilwell will not feature against Belgium at Wembley because of an illness unrelated to Covid-19.

“They’re back with the group and we move forward,” said manager Gareth Southgate.

“Tammy and Jadon both trained on Saturday and everyone is available. They’ve missed a bit of training so that’s a bit of a concern but it’s done.

“Ben will be tested on Saturday and we’ll have to wait for the results of that on Sunday and then we can make a decision from there.”

Against Wales Southgate named a starting XI with just 54 caps collectively – the fewest since 1976.

But he is expected to field a more experienced line-up for the visit of the world’s top-ranked team. Captain Harry Kane is likely to start, while Marcus Rashford – the striker who was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list – may also return.

Jack Grealish produced a man-of-the-match performance against Wales and will be hoping to keep his place, although his manager played down comparisons between the Aston Villa captain and England legend Paul Gascoigne.

“I am very conscious I don’t want to be dampening the enthusiasm for Jack,” said the England manager. “But when you are talking about Gascoigne, there’s not a player in English history who was at that level, in my opinion.

“I don’t want that to seem a criticism of Jack. I just feel that Gascoigne is so unique and was such an incredible player, it’s a bit like talking about Bobby Moore.

“I kind of understood some of the comparison but I just think with Gascoigne as an individual, it was just on another level to anything else I ever played with.”

MBE Rashford given round of applause

Southgate said Rashford received a round of applause from England’s players and staff after becoming an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The Manchester United forward, 22, campaigned for the government to allow about 1.3 million children to claim free school meal vouchers in England’s summer holidays during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Firstly it’s an amazing achievement – wonderful for him and his family, the recognition,” said Southgate. “But he didn’t start this project to get the recognition.

“He started it because it was something he had been affected by, that he cared passionately about, and for somebody of his age to be able to make the difference he has is a phenomenal achievement.

“We’re all very proud of him. We gave him a special round of applause this morning.

“You can only marvel at what he’s achieved and the difference he’s made to kids who will understand the difference he’s made but also who, at the moment, won’t understand but will be incredibly grateful for him in years to come.”

The tough challenge facing England

While England can look back at the 2018 World Cup with fondness, in seven games at the tournament they were beaten three times – and two of those defeats came at the hands of the Belgians.

Roberto Martinez’s side were 1-0 winners in the teams’ final group match, before coming out on top 2-0 in the third-place play-off.

Belgium’s fine form continued in Euro 2020 qualifying as they won all 10 group matches, scoring 40 goals and conceding just three. Theirs was the best record of any European team.

That form has helped the Belgians maintain their place as the number one-ranked side in the Fifa rankings, a position they have held since 2018.

They top League A Group 2 in the Nations League after taking maximum points from their first two games – a 5-1 win over Iceland and a 2-0 victory in Denmark.

England, who beat Iceland thanks to an injury-time penalty and were held to a dull goalless draw in Denmark, are two points behind.

Belgium are looking to become the first team since France a decade ago to win three consecutive games against England.

Who would you pick to take on Belgium?

Choose your first-choice England XI for the upcoming Nations League match against Belgium.

Match facts

  • England lost just one of their first 21 matches against Belgium (W15 D5) but have since lost each of their past two games against the Belgians, both at the 2018 World Cup.
  • Since losing 4-1 against Germany at the 2010 World Cup, England have not lost a match on a Sunday (P13 W9 D4), winning five of their six Sunday matches under Gareth Southgate.
  • England have kept a clean sheet in each of their past six matches – should they keep a clean sheet against Belgium, it will be the longest run of games without conceding in the national side’s history.
  • England have won 19 of their past 20 competitive home matches, the only loss in this run being a 2-1 defeat by Spain in September 2018.
  • Belgium have scored in each of their past 19 away matches, scoring 54 goals (W15 D2 L2), while scoring at least twice in 16 of those 19 games, including each of their last 13 (38 goals scored).
  • Harry Kane has been directly involved in 10 goals in his past five home matches for England (nine goals & one assist), scoring two hat-tricks in this run – against Bulgaria in September 2019 and Montenegro in November 2019, in what was his most recent home game; the only previous player to score a hat-trick in consecutive home appearances for England was Tommy Taylor between 1956 and 1957 versus Denmark and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Belgium striker Michy Batshauyi has scored four goals in two Nations League starts – both against Iceland – although Batshuayi has never scored at Wembley in four previous club appearances, all with Chelsea in 2017, netting an own goal three minutes after coming on as a substitute in August 2017 against Spurs.

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