Gareth Southgate on Kalvin Phillips' alternative England role as Leeds United man earns plaudits for Croatia show

Gareth Southgate believes Kalvin Phillips has the ability to feature in a more advanced role for England on a regular basis.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 7:47 pm
Kalvin Phillips provides an assist for Raheem Sterling during England's win over Croatia at Wembley. Pic: Getty
Kalvin Phillips provides an assist for Raheem Sterling during England's win over Croatia at Wembley. Pic: Getty

Leeds United s defensive midfielder played a starring role for the Three Lions on Sunday in their Euro 2020 opener.

Southgate's men recorded a 1-0 victory over Croatia in Group D, as Phillips recorded an assist for Raheem Sterling's match-winning strike in the second half.

The Thorp Arch academy product earned praise from his manager, teammates and pundits for a strong showing in his debut appearance at a major finals for his country.

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England opted for a three-man midfield made up of Declan Rice and Mason Mount alongside Phillips with Sterling, Phil Foden and captain Harry Kane further forward.

Southgate, though, opted to deploy the Elland Road man in a more advanced position than he is used to in an attempt to support the Three Lions' attacking line.

Phillips is mainly utilised as a holding midfielder under club boss Marcelo Bielsa in LS11.

The Yorkshire Pirlo, as he is affectionately known, made seven ball recoveries, won four duels and had 44 touches along with completing 31 of his 33 attempted passes at Wembley.

“We know that we are asking him to play in a slightly more advanced position than he plays for his club," Southgate reflected post-match.

"But we know he’s got the technique to do that. He gives us a bit more solidity in midfield and allows us to effectively play four attacking players with Mason in midfield as well.

“We think that three in midfield was a good balance, but also I have to credit the forwards for doing their job without the ball.

“Every time we made runs from outside, whether that was from midfield or the front, we looked a real threat. I thought we could have done that a bit more if anything.

“I’m pleased with a lot of things. Still there are things we can get better at.”

Asked how impressed he had been with the Leeds midfielder, Southgate added: "We watched him a lot the season before last in the Championship.

“We were going to bring him into the squad ahead of the Euros a year ago. He’s now had a year of Premier League football. He’s technically good and we also knew the athleticism today was going to be so important.

“We also needed to get tight to their midfield players and Mason [Mount], Kalvin and Declan [Rice] did that really well, along with the wide players helping out and taking up the right positions.

“Kalvin is a fabulous boy to work with. So unassuming and I thought his performance was outstanding.

"Two passes behind the defence in the first half were top level and the contribution for the goal summed his day up.”