How Kobbie Mainoo could become England’s Frenkie de Jong

DORTMUND, Germany– In what is becoming his custom, Kobbie Mainoo threatening without much fanfare or fanfare to address a problem that is perceived to be destructive England for many years. Wednesday Euro 2024 semi-final with Netherlands promises to be the teenager’s toughest test yet, but the Three Lions hope they have finally found a midfielder capable of dictating play in the biggest games.

It is no secret to anyone who has watched them play that manager Gareth Southgate has been looking for a solution to balance England’s midfield throughout this tournament. Experimenting with defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield against Serbia And Denmark obviously failed, causing him to throw up. Conor Gallagher in opposition Slovenia. As Gallagher fumbled, Mainoo had his chance and England were unperturbed.

They have struggled to find a rhythm since struggling to overcome their opponents in the round of 16. Slovakia in extra time and afterwards Switzerland penalty in the quarter-finals, but Mainoo is one of their brightest players and the debate over who will partner Declan Rice The midfield battle — which has been fiercely contested in the first two weeks of the Euros — is officially over.

A moment against Switzerland summed up the composure and quality Mainoo brings. Midway through the first half of Saturday’s quarter-final, the 19-year-old did something England midfielders never do. John Stones The ball was passed into the centre of midfield towards Mainoo, who ran back to meet it. The pass was actually misplaced, but Mainoo reacted lightning quick, adjusting his body to let the ball run past him.

In that one movement, without even touching the ball, Granit Xhaka And Remo Freuler were thrown out of the game when Mainoo came between them and England suddenly went on the attack.

When watching such highlights, it’s easy to forget that this is a young player making his sixth cap. In fact, Mainoo has only made 35 appearances as a senior professional at Manchester Unitedwhere he at least has a good foundation to be a calming presence while the storm rages around him. However, the ease he radiates on the international stage does not surprise his teammates.

United defender and teammate Luke Shaw told ESPN: “No. [I’m not surprised] because he did it in Manchester. He came from nowhere and did it easily.

“Everyone knows his qualities. It’s just a matter of getting him into the team and I think once he’s in the team, everyone knows he’s going to show his qualities and how important he can be for the team. It’s a huge compliment to tell him what he’s done is really good. He just needs to maintain that level.”

Mainoo just does his best Premier League made his debut in November after suffering an ankle injury in a pre-season friendly against Real MadridHis England debut came in March last year. Brazil But ahead of the crucial semi-final against Dortmund, Mainoo is now expected to be one of the first names on Southgate’s squad list.

“The development has been really scary,” said Shaw. “It’s happened so quickly for him. When I first saw Kobbie I thought he was in and out of the first team just training but you could see the quality he had.

“Then he left in pre-season — he was unlucky with an injury that set him back a little bit — but that didn’t stop him. I think his qualities have shown. I don’t see him as a young lad anymore: I think he’s one of our main players.

“To me, he has the world at his feet, he can do anything. He just needs to keep calm, keep working hard and the world is at his fingertips. He can really achieve anything.”



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Against Switzerland, Mainoo won 100% of his tackles, completed 33 of his 34 passes, won four of his five duels and had the highest individual xG in England (0.17). According to Opta, Mainoo’s 96% pass completion rate is the highest of any midfielder at the European Championships that the stats provider has recorded since 1980.

Comparisons are inevitable, and there is a temptation to suggest that England have found a metronome in midfield capable of cutting down opponents in a way that has so often plagued the Three Lions in the past. While Southgate has been trying to balance his midfield in recent weeks, the problems go back much further.

Often, England’s failure to keep possession in midfield has cost them big games at major tournaments. Marco Verratti And Jorginho turned the Euro 2020 final around Italybenefited as they increasingly controlled the midfield. England became wasteful and lost territory, eventually losing on penalties.

Luka Modricstrongly supported by Marcelo Brozovicdid the same for Croatia in their 2018 World Cup semi-final against Southgate’s side, coming from behind to win a tense extra-time game. In 2012, it was Italy’s Andrea Pirlo who pulled the strings as Roy Hodgson’s England chased the ball for 120 minutes in a quarter-final defeat in Kiev before succumbing on penalties. Pirlo was so composed all night that he even scored from the spot with a Panenka.

In the middle of that run, Frenkie de Jong produced another superb display in midfield in the 2019 Nations League semi-finals, as the Netherlands reminded England of the maturity and game management they often lack in midfield.

Two years ago, when discussing Joshua Kimmichability to do something similar for Germany (before Toni Kroos’ returning to the fray this year), Southgate declared: “We don’t have that type of player in this country. I don’t think we develop that type of player well through youth football and through the academy. Other countries are probably a little bit more focused on that.”

However, many England players seem to feel Mainoo could change that perception. Alexander-Arnold, who lost his place to Mainoo, said: “It was the first time I’ve seen him up close and personal. He impressed me a lot. He’s someone who can control the ball and get the team going.

“His technique and ability under pressure is impressive. Very young, but with so much potential. It’s an exciting time for England.”

“I have to say Kobbie is unbelievable,” said Rice. “At 19 years old, the fact that he’s running around and is so fit and strong is unbelievable.”

De Jong’s absence through an ankle injury was a blow for the Netherlands. They have become a more defensive side as a result — displaying the same conservatism that Southgate has been criticised for — and the 27-year-old watched from the stands as his compatriots were beaten. Türkiye on Saturday to prepare for the match against England. Like Southgate, the head coach Ronald Koeman have been looking for answers, with Jerdy Schouten And Tijjani Reijnders sit deep and Xavi Simons further ahead of Türkiye.

Whoever wins the midfield battle will go a long way towards determining Sunday’s finalists in Berlin. It’s another big ask for Mainoo, but so far he has delivered.


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