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SportsSouthgate resolute on Stones' starting role despite injury outcome

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Southgate resolute on Stones’ starting role despite injury outcome

England manager Gareth Southgate defended his decision to include John Stones in the lineup for two matches within a short span, despite the Manchester City defender being forced off the field due to injury just 10 minutes into Tuesday’s 2-2 draw against Belgium.

Stones, who had played the entire 90 minutes in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Brazil at Wembley, started the match against Belgium but suffered an injury to his adductor muscle early on.

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This injury raises doubts about Stones’ availability for City’s upcoming crucial Premier League match against Arsenal on Sunday, especially with Kyle Walker also returning to the Etihad after sustaining a hamstring injury against Brazil.

Nonetheless, Southgate defended his decision, asserting that other top nations also fielded senior players in multiple matches during this international break.

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“We did [with Stones] what Holland did with Virgil van Dijk tonight, what Norway did with [Martin] Odegaard and also what the Dutch did did with Nathan Aké, but it [criticism] only seems to fall on us.

“Of course I am disappointed if he [Stones] has a problem. It seems to be in the adjunct area, so we will have to wait and see.

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“But John hadn’t played for two weeks before joining up with the squad, so it is not an overload problem. But I hate sending players back to their clubs not fully fit.”

England managed to secure a draw against Belgium, another Euro 2024 qualifier, with Jude Bellingham, the Real Madrid midfielder, scoring an equalizer four minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match.

Belgium had taken the lead twice, courtesy of Youri Tielemans, while England’s first equalizer came from an Ivan Toney penalty.

Bellingham’s goal saved England from suffering two consecutive defeats. Despite introducing first starts for Toney and Kobbie Mainoo, Southgate viewed the final outcome positively due to the changes made to his team.

“Jude of course is the headline and that competitive desire not to lose, to win, got us through,” Southgate said. “We recovered from setbacks with a pretty inexperienced team against a side with some very good players.

“Some players have definitely emerged positively from the opportunities they have had so we have great depth, but injuries are a concern and we still have the real heat of the season to come. We know what we have until the end.”
Belgium coach Dominic Tedesco said England deserved to salvage a draw from the game, despite his team leading for much of the encounter.

“Five seconds to go, you can win a game at Wembley,” he said. “That would be something very special and fantastic, but over the game, England was really strong and created many chances, so I think it is a fair result.
“It’s not easy to control this kind of team for 90 minutes, especially here at Wembley.”

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