England player ratings v Serbia: Bellingham runs the show, Kane quiet, Saka shows positive signs

Jason Soutar
England players line up before the Euro 2024 match against Serbia
England players line up before the Euro 2024 match against Serbia

An improved Serbia second-half performance gave England something to think about but Jude Bellingham’s early goal was enough for the Three Lions on Sunday night. Here are our player ratings…


Jordan Pickford
Had the best seat in the house as Jude Bellingham ran the show in the first half. Actually had to do a few things in the second half after Dragan Stojkovic gave his players the hairdryer treatment at the break.

He was bereft of proper options on the ball too often in the second 45 minutes and was ultimately forced to launch the ball to Harry Kane, who was being thrown about by Serbian brute Nikola Milenkovic. That battle ensured those launches were just a long-winded way of giving away possession.

Pickford only had one save to make and while it looked impressive with his dive to tip Dusan Vlahovic’s long-range effort over the bar, he was never going to get beaten from that distance.


Kyle Walker
Walker’s first exchange with Filip Kostic didn’t go well for the England man, who knew he would want to get to the byline to find Vlahovic or Aleksandar Mitrovic with a cross. It didn’t happen again because Kostic went off injured early on but if he had stayed on, you’d have expected Walker would not have been done by that again.

Could have scored or assisted after marauding forward to fill Bukayo Saka’s space. Boy, he is quick, and that pace got him in that situation. The final product let Walker down as it often does.

It was steady enough defensively from Walker but a lot of Serbia’s threat came down their left side.

Walker’s recovery pace allows Gareth Southgate to make Saka the man who plays the furthest forward, providing a different relationship than the one the Arsenal winger has with Benjamin White; it’s less supportive and intricate, and more just letting Saka do his thing.

READ: Jude Bellingham’s England (just) beat Serbia: 16 Conclusions on an unnecessarily nervy opener


John Stones
The Manchester City centre-back had an uncomfortable first moment in the game, fluffing a header under pressure from physical striker Vlahovic before a dogged header to sneak in and win the ball back. That sort of bravery was necessary against a striker partnership of Vlahovic and Mitrovic.

Considering he has been unwell this week, Stones did well and keeping a clean sheet is always nice.


Marc Guehi
Harry Maguire’s physical presence was not a miss when it really could have been, with Guehi not tested by the physical Serbians. Vlahovic did get the better of him once, turning the Crystal Palace centre-back and failing with his low cross to Mitrovic.

Guehi did not misplace a single pass in the opening half but did lose the ball once with a heavy touch that could have been punished if Declan Rice did not seamlessly slot in and fill the gap Serbia wanted to expose. The heavy touch came from an aggressive, front-footed piece of defending that was excellent, if only the touch wasn’t taken so excitedly.

Serbia were slack whenever England turned over the ball and Guehi will be thankful for the rare times he did concede possession that he was not punished. Southgate will be pleased with this centre-back partnership.


Kieran Trippier
His positioning – almost as a left-winger – early on indicated that Southgate was happy for Phil Foden to come inside and receive the ball in between the lines, which is how he thrived for Manchester City in the second half of 2023/24. He had the freedom to go up so high as Walker would tuck in and form a back three with Stones and Guehi. The shape was good and Trippier is a big part of that.

There was a potentially scary moment when Mitrovic went down in the box under a challenge from Trippier but it was nothing in the end and something you see in every game. A big boy like Mitro shouldn’t be getting tumbled over by wee Trips.

Defensively there was also a moment when Trippier completely misread the bounce of the ball and thankfully Serbia once again could not capitalise.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold
Thankfully the boring defensive stuff is over. There was not much analysis to be done in comparison to the other six players in the England team. Clean sheet. Relatively untested. A few shaky moments in possession. You know how it is. Blah blah blah.

England’s shape saw Alexander-Arnold sitting in his natural role as an inverted right-back at Liverpool but as he grew into the game he was all over the place as Declan Rice held his position in protecting the back four.

It was a pleasing performance in midfield when everyone was waiting for him to fail. After Bellingham’s opener, the best England chance came from an excellent Trent interception, showing his defensive ability that he is often slaughtered for. Given the freedom to get involved in attacking phases, Trent impressed with a cheeky la-croqueta to win a free-kick that he should have done more with.

Little dinks over to Saka, a couple of searching Hollywood passes, Trent did well on the ball except for one moment when he couldn’t control it close to his own box. Mitrovic had a chance from said miscontrol but smashed it wide of Pickford’s post. Alexander-Arnold came off for Conor Gallagher in the 69th minute.

Declan Rice
When people say, ‘He is a seven out of ten every week’, this is the sort of performance they are referring to.

He covers for his centre-backs when they are out of position, always seems to be in the right place to recover the ball and does the simple thing well every time, which is harder than it sounds.

Those long legs have mesmerised us for years and when he needs to use them, he dispossesses opposition players and was forced to do so a couple of times against Serbia.


Bukayo Saka
Having given us some worries about his fitness and been the fall guy for many people pushing the Cole Palmer Clamour, this was a positive performance from Saka, who lasted 76 minutes.

He was (kind of) the creator of the first goal, but that will not go down as an assist due to how telling the deflected block was from the Serbian defender.

The first half was brilliant and if Jude Bellingham wasn’t taking the absolute p*ss, Saka would have been England’s best player. He was giving Trent options that the Liverpool man dreams of and had Strahinja Pavlovic on toast, showing far too much pace and directness for him.

First half good. Second half not so good. Pavlovic woke up after getting a kick up the backside at half-time. He didn’t give Saka as much respect and showed so much more aggression. Overall, it was a positive performance for someone who is hugely important to this England side, whether you want to admit it or not.

Jude Bellingham
Wow. Where do you even begin with this kid? And that’s what he is, despite looking like he is touching 30. Bloody 20 years old, you know. It’s an absolute disgrace, really.

Against Serbia, Bellingham had the license to do whatever he wanted. And what did he fancy doing? Bloody everything. From winning tackles to spraying 40-yard passes, he was the best player on the pitch and put in the best half of football from an individual so far at Euro 2024.

Kane wasn’t very involved as Bellingham assumed his frustrating duties of dropping deep for the ball and making things happen. It makes more sense when your No. 10 does it, believe it or not.

He was picking the ball up everywhere and the only way the Serbia players could get close was by fouling him. He takes all of that in his stride as he’s been getting kicked about since playing for Birmingham City at 16. Nothing phases him at all as he strolls around the pitch like he is playing in the cages of south London.

It’s nice when the hype proves to be worth it 45 minutes into a tournament. We do not have the superlatives for this guy anymore.


Phil Foden
Was one of his quieter evenings but the role he assumed in this England system is a good sign. He was very close to Kane as Southgate gave him the freedom to roam. Unfortunately for him and England, he couldn’t stamp his authority on the game.


Harry Kane
It was a difficult evening for Kane, who had two touches in the first half, with his first coming after 18 minutes. Astoundingly, England fans should be absolutely buzzing with this. Some fans appreciate it as Kane does have outstanding passing ability, but his dropping deep to make things happen can often frustrate as he ends up being nowhere to be seen when England need their bloody striker in the box.

Perhaps such a change, with Kane playing as a poacher and Bellingham manipulating the ball, can be what gets England over the line in a major tournament.

The most amusing moment of the night was Kane finally getting the ball in space, only for a very promising pass out to Saka to be intercepted by…the referee.

Hit the bar after being denied by an outstanding save from his close-range header. Milenkovic – who had his way with the Bayern Munich superstar – was not around and you could tell as Kane bullied the Serbian defender to get on the end of Jarrod Bowen’s ball in.

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Conor Gallagher (on 69th min)
Came on for Alexander-Arnold and did what he had to do in terms of throwing his body around, but didn’t exactly help add the composure this under-pressure England side needed late on.


Jarrod Bowen (on 76th min)
Made an instant impact off the bench as he provided the cross for Kane’s header, hanging up a cross very handsomely.


Kobbie Mainoo (on 86th min)
Handed his competitive debut late on to try and see things out, even though Bellingham was in there winning tackles and getting in about the Serbians.

Buzzed around as he tried to get England over the line. We will surely see more of him this summer.