England moved closer to a top seeding at Euro 2024 with a laboured 2-0 home victory against Group C makeweights Malta on Friday that will not live long in the memory of an underwhelmed Wembley Stadium crowd.
Coach Gareth Southgate said his plans for the England squad for the European 2024 qualifiers against Malta on Friday and North Macedonia three days later have changed due to the absence of several players through injury.
"Well, I was bored watching the game. I was at the game and it just kept stopping. So never mind the players. What about the fans?" Southgate told reporters after naming his squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
In a surprise announcement a year earlier than planned, world soccer's governing body allocated the 2030 World Cup to Morocco, Spain and Portugal but also said Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay would host three opening matches to mark the tournament's centenary.
"We know there are thousands of Ukrainians here," he told reporters at a press conference on Friday in Wroclaw. "We are expecting a passionate crowd but we are here to win a football game, so for us it is about keeping our emotions in check and focusing on our job."
England's first win against Italy on Italian soil since 1961 and a first competitive victory over them anywhere since 1977 was rightly celebrated at the final whistle.
Southgate's side's first game since bowing out to France in Qatar is a clash with the European champions in Naples as the two heavyweights begin their Euro 2024 qualifiers.
Under Article 73 of UEFA's disciplinary regulations, children up to the age of 14 from schools and/or football academies can be invited to a match free of charge, provided they are accompanied by an adult.
England were semi-finalists at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and reached the final of the European Championship last year, where they lost to Italy.
The Poles used all five of their substitutes during the game and ended strongly, grabbing their equaliser in stoppage time.
The winger suffered a minor knock during a training session earlier this week and he was forced to miss his team’s 4-0 win over Hungary in Budapest.
Southgate has urged his players to play without fear when they take on Ukraine in the European Championship quarter-final on Saturday.
Southgate has praised Raheem Sterling’s “incredible resilience and hunger” after the Manchester City forward helped them reach the quarter-finals of Euro 2020.
Sterling, who kept his place alongside Harry Kane in a rejigged attack, settled fans' nerves with an early headed goal, which ultimately proved decisive.
England can join Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Friday if the Three Lions get the better of neighbours Scotland.
For the first time at a European Championship, England are off to a winning start as Southgate's bold selection paid off in a 1-0 win against Croatia on Sunday.
England's performance at the European Championship can help in uniting the country, manager Gareth Southgate said.
Alexander-Arnold limped off in the closing stages of England's 1-0 win after sustaining the injury while clearing the ball.
Southgate said some fans do not understand the message behind players taking a knee before matches.
Rashford says he was racially abused on social media following Manchester United's defeat in the Europa League final.