Rio Ferdinand questions why two England players didn’t play against Serbia

Joe Williams
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand during his role as a TNT Sports pundit.

Rio Ferdinand thinks England boss Gareth Southgate should have brought on Kobbie Mainoo earlier and wanted to see Cole Palmer make an appearance against Serbia.

The Three Lions made an encouraging start as Jude Bellingham headed them into a 13th-minute lead at Arena AufSchalke in Gelsenkirchen before fading in the second half and defending deep.

Skipper Harry Kane went closest to adding to England’s slender lead when his second-half header was pushed on to the crossbar and Southgate was unfazed by his side’s under-whelming performance.

But Ferdinand wanted to see a bit more and reckons Southgate could have made changes earlier, especially the introduction of Manchester United midfielder Mainoo and Chelsea attacker Palmer.

“The game needed a bit more control,” former England defender Ferdinand told BBC One after the match.

“Where are the players that can do that? Kobbie Mainoo maybe yes, [come on] a bit earlier if need be.

“But also someone like Cole Palmer who has got that bit of swagger and arrogance to say give me that ball. The way Tadic came on for Serbia, he came on and said give me the ball, I will be that outlet for you guys’.”

Fellow pundit Cesc Fabregas thinks Southgate should have made a more attack-minded change after the Spaniard was left unimpressed by England’s second-half showing.

“If you send the message in putting in a defensive midfielder or an extra defender to cover the result, you will as a player feel it,” Fabregas said.

“Mentally you start going back, dropping more. But instead if you put an offensive player, Palmer let’s say, up the pitch and controlling the ball in the final third, I think the players get so much more comfortable.”

When asked if their first half performance showed how they can win the tournament and the second half display showed why they may fall short, Bellingham replied: “No, not quite – I don’t agree with that.

“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.

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“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.

“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.”