Euro 2020: Gareth Southgate has a England team of full of young stars who could go all the way

There still remains a sour taste left in the mouths of England supporters from the embarrassment of Euro 2016.

Defeat to Iceland cut short that tournament and Roy Hodgson’s time in charge but the emergence of Gareth Southgate and his youthful, exciting composition gives fans reason to be optimistic heading into the summer.

Since the shambolic viewings four years ago in France, England have started to assemble a side capable of going all the way, reflected by the bookmakers – the majority placing the Three Lions as favourites to win the tournament. With the Euro 2020 final being played at Wembley Stadium, there is more incentive than ever to bring football home.

At Euro 2016, England suffered one of their most embarrassing defeats ever losing to Iceland

Iceland were competing at their first major tournament finals and they knocked England out

Iceland were competing at their first major tournament finals and they knocked England out

The embarrassing defeat at Euro 2016 cost Roy Hodgson his job as England manager

The embarrassing defeat at Euro 2016 cost Roy Hodgson his job as England manager

ENGLAND’S STARTING XI VS ICELAND (2016)

England’s XI: Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling; Eric Dier, Dele Alli; Raheem Sterling, Wayne Rooney (c), Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge.

But first let’s revisit the mess that was Euro 2016.

With Hodgson in charge of proceedings, there was an acceptance among many England fans that the team was not oozing class and playing slick, modern football.

But even so, defeat to Iceland was a horror show few saw coming.

Before that embarrassment, though, came optimism that was swiftly compromised. England began the group stages with a 1-1 draw against Russia before coming from behind to beat Wales in dramatic fashion, courtesy of Daniel Sturridge’s 92nd minute winner.

However, the Three Lions then failed to beat Slovakia in a 0-0 draw, which placed England second in the group behind Chris Coleman’s Wales.

The national embarrassment was felt but there has been more to cheer under the new regime

The national embarrassment was felt but there has been more to cheer under the new regime

Gareth Southgate has transformed the side by putting his faith in young and exciting players

Gareth Southgate has transformed the side by putting his faith in young and exciting players

That did favour England’s chances of progressing, though, as they would face Iceland – appearing at a major tournament finals for the first time in their history – in the last-16 and anything but a routine win for Hodgson’s side seemed implausible.

The Three Lions struck early in the fourth minute through Wayne Rooney, but a quick-fire response from Ragnar Sigurdsson followed by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s winner was a day that would be remembered in history – and for the wrong reasons.

However, Hodgson left his post following the conclusion of the tournament in France, and after Sam Allardyce’s tenure came to an abrupt end, Southgate was appointed in September 2016. He wasn’t a manager that had previous credentials for playing exciting football, but Southgate has evolved and revolutionised the England system and style – all for the better.

ENGLAND’S STARTING XI VS CROATIA (2018)

England’s XI: Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire; Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli; Harry Kane (c), Raheem Sterling.

Most notably has been Southgate’s philosophy of bedding the younger players into the first-team squad. The likes of Jadon Sancho, Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Callum Hudson-Odoi are just a handful of the talent that has been introduced into the squad under Southgate, all of whom are capable and in contention to start at Euro 2020.

It comes down to that crucial word; excitement. For years England have lacked a team, not only capable of making the latter stages of competitions, but one that has captivated and intrigued the nation as much as Southgate’s fresh, youthful squad have.

Two years ago, England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, and it was a summer that inspired the country. Losing to Croatia – who went on to lose to France in the final – was a bitter-sweet way to finish. It signified the end of England’s 2018 World Cup campaign, but the start of an exciting future.

A run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cyp in Russia demonstrated Southgate's progress

A run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cyp in Russia demonstrated Southgate’s progress

Ultimately Croatia progressed to the final but England showed Iceland's loss was behind them

Ultimately Croatia progressed to the final but England showed Iceland’s loss was behind them

Just four players who featured in the defeat to Iceland in 2016 also started against Croatia. It was a sign that Southgate was leaning more and more towards youth, which has propelled and expanded ever since.

Southgate, in his early days as England manager, opted for a back-three system which we saw deployed at the 2018 World Cup. However, he has since switched to a more traditional back-four system, giving the young, exciting, more attack-minded players the freedom to showcase their talent.

Take Sancho for example; a player who was called up to the England senior squad for the first time on October 4, 2018. He is now a star in the making with a huge role to play at Euro 2020.

Currently plying his trade in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, the 19-year-old has scored 16 goals and registered 17 assists in 32 games this season in all competitions, and is subsequently starting to attract attention from the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

And now we are less than four months from the start of Euro 2020. England were drafted into Group D and face tough competition against Croatia, Czech Republic and the winners of the play-off path including Scotland, Israel, Norway and Serbia.

Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho (right) are among the players thriving under Southgate

Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho (right) are among the players thriving under Southgate

England have preparation games scheduled ahead of the summer tournament, with clashes against Italy and Denmark to be played at Wembley Stadium on March 27 and March 31 respectively. The Three Lions will then travel to Vienna on June 2 to face Austria before returning home to host Romania at Villa Park five days later.

Southgate’s side will play each of their Euro 2020 group stage encounters at Wembley Stadium, with their first match to be played on June 14 against Croatia – the team they met just two years ago in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

It is clear to see that Southgate has made his mark on this current crop of players, and now is the chance to dissolve the embarrassment of Euro 2016 as we eagerly anticipate the prospect of becoming European Champions for the first time in our nation’s history.

Tottenham: Jose Mourinho demands ‘more balanced’ squad

Spurs have been without key striker Kane since 1 January

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho admits changes have to be made to his squad in the summer after a spate of injuries derailed the club’s season.

Forwards Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are sidelined along with captain Hugo Lloris and midfielder Moussa Sissoko.

“We know that we have to build a squad more balanced for next season,” said Mourinho, whose team are five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

“You have to be ready to cope with these unpredictable things.”

Spurs saw their FA Cup challenge end this week with defeat on penalties at home to Norwich, their fourth successive defeat in all competitions.

They face Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday knowing the Clarets would move above them in the table with a victory.

Lloris dislocated an elbow against Brighton in October and having returned in January after surgery, the France goalkeeper has now missed the last two matches with a groin problem.

Talisman Kane, the club’s top scorer for the last five seasons, also needed surgery and has been out since New Year’s Day with a ruptured tendon in his left hamstring.

Influential forward Son sustained a broken arm against Aston Villa on 16 February, while combative midfielder Sissoko has not played since 1 January and is another to require an operation, this time to repair medial collateral ligament damage in his right knee.

“Obviously people are tired of listening to it but the run of injuries this club had this season is something really crazy,” said Mourinho, who was appointed as Mauricio Pochettino’s successor in November.

“We have to prepare ourselves for something similar to happen again and we have to build a squad that protects against this kind of situation.

“But I believe that any club that loses four fundamental players at the same time, doesn’t matter the squad you have, any team would always feel a situation like this.”

Pochettino guided the Lilywhites to four successive top-four finishes and took the club to the Champions League final last season but Mourinho faces a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in the round of 16 tie with RB Leipzig in this year’s competition, while his team are seventh in the league.

The Portuguese had claimed he would have to prioritise either Saturday’s league game at Burnley or Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Germany because of the injury crisis.

He has since relented but is not prepared to find himself in a similar position next term, adding: “We need to give a different shape to the squad to be ready for these unexpected things that happen to us, but we all know that we have to try to win tomorrow and we have to try to win on Tuesday.”

Real Madrid set to allow midfielder superstar Luka Modric ‘to decide his own future’ amid ongoing MLS links with David Beckham’s Inter Miami

Real Madrid are reportedly willing to allow superstar midfielder Luka Modric to decide upon his own future this summer, despite having one season remaining on his deal in the Spanish capital.

Modric, now 34, has been a mainstay in the Madrid team since signing from Tottenham in 2012, though is now in the twilight of a glittering career.

The midfielder is said to be in the process of deciding whether to make a switch in order to continue regular playing time and Madrid will allow him to make the call, according to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo.

Real Madrid are reportedly willing to allow midfielder Luka Modric to decide on his future

Modric, now in the twilight of his career, has dropped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu

Modric, now in the twilight of his career, has dropped down the pecking order at the Bernabeu

Modric has been frequently linked with a move to MLS, particularly with David Beckham’s latest start-up Inter Miami.

Beckham is hoping to land Modric as a major signing for his new side as they prepare to make their MLS bow for the 2020 season.

Martin Odegaard, on loan at Real Sociedad, is seen as Modric's long-term replacement

Martin Odegaard, on loan at Real Sociedad, is seen as Modric’s long-term replacement

Although Madrid are open to the prospect of Modric leaving, they will not allow him to depart until the end of the season.

Youngster Martin Odegaard, on loan with Real Sociedad, has impressed this season in La Liga and is seen as Modric’s long-term replacement.

Modric has started just 13 La Liga games this campaign, and has often been brought into matches by Zidane as an impact substitute.

Marseille striker Benedetto treated for head injury by being given SWIMMING CAP

Making a splash! Marseille striker Dario Benedetto treated for head injury by being given a SWIMMING CAP as French club stumble to late draw with Amiens

  • Marseille suffered a late collapse to take a 2-2 draw with Amiens in Ligue 1 
  • But striker Dario Benedetto ended up stealing spotlight after a bizarre moment
  • Following a head injury Benedetto was treated by being given a swimming cap 
  • The bright blue rubber headwear left both players and fans rather confused 

As far as bizarre injury treatments go, Marseille striker Dario Benedetto’s remedy for a head injury sustained against Amiens is right up there.

After taking a knock to the head during play, Benedetto and his team-mates were left slightly puzzled after medical staff attended to the injury before presenting him with a swimming cap.

The bright blue rubber number was then worn by Argentine striker Benedetto for the remainder of the match, gathering stares from fans and fellow players alike.

Dario Benedetto’s remedy for a head injury is up there with football’s most bizarre

The Marseille striker was treated for a head injury by being hand a bright blue swimming cap

The Marseille striker was treated for a head injury by being hand a bright blue swimming cap

The shiny rubber headwear was highly visible and drew stares from both players and fans

The shiny rubber headwear was highly visible and drew stares from both players and fans

Marseille took a healthy 2-0 lead in the match yet, despite Michael Phelps impersonator Benedetto leading the forward line, the French giants began to crumble in the latter stages.

Second-placed Marseille, who are now 12 points behind runaway leaders Paris Saint Germain, seemed to be cruising when Morgan Sanson and former West Ham star Dimitri Payet scored either side of half-time.

But Serhou Guirassy’s 83rd-minute penalty gave Amiens a lifeline, and substitute Saman Ghoddos equalised in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Relegation-threatened Amiens frustrated Andre Villas-Boas’ side during a first half in which Guirassy had the best early opening.

The Argentine forward led the line and continued to play the full match for his side

The Argentine forward led the line and continued to play the full match for his side

Marseille were cruising in the match but crumbled in the final moments and drew 2-2

Marseille were cruising in the match but crumbled in the final moments and drew 2-2

But Marseille took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Amiens goalkeeper Regis Gurtner allowed Sanson’s drive from the edge of the box to evade his grasp.

Payet was out-of-sorts in the first period but he sliced through the Amiens defence after 57 minutes, just moments after Guirassy had a close-range effort disallowed for offside.

The France forward’s ninth goal of the season arrived with a cruel deflection off Aurelien Chedjou.

Amiens kept pushing, however, and Guirassy won and converted a penalty before heading against the crossbar two minutes later.

Marseille looked as if they would hold on for a fifth win in six league games until Ghoddos pounced from close range with virtually the last kick of the match.

Inter Milan president Steven Zhang vows not to cash-in on Lautaro Martinez and Co

Inter Milan president Steven Zhang vows not to cash-in on stars amid Barcelona interest in Lautaro Martinez – and insists they want ‘to attract the best talent from around the world’

  • Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez has scored 16 goals in 30 Inter Milan games
  • Club president Steven Zhang insists Inter want to keep hold of their best players
  • He says they will add to their squad with the ‘best talent from around the world’ 
  • They are challenging for Serie A title in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge 

Inter Milan have no intention of selling star players such as Lautaro Martinez this summer, according to club president Steven Zhang.

The Argentine has attracted interest from Spanish giants Barcelona this season after scoring 16 times in 30 appearances for Antonio Conte’s side.

Reports in Spain on Wednesday suggested that Inter were willing to do business with Barca if they sent them Arthur Melo, Carles Alena and Jean Clair Todibo in exchange for Martinez.

Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez has attracted interest from Barcelona this season

Inter president Steven Zhang insists the club want to keep hold of their stars this summer

Inter president Steven Zhang insists the club want to keep hold of their stars this summer

However, Zhang insists that the club are looking to add to their squad when the transfer window reopens and do not want to lose any of their best players.

‘For Inter, as one of the biggest clubs in the world, you have to try your best to win,’ Zhang told Financial Times.

‘We don’t want to sell our talented players and (we do want to) attract the best talent from around the world.’

Inter are challenging for the Serie A title under Conte this season, having last finished top of the table a decade ago.

Inter are challenging for the Serie A title this season after going 10 years without winning it

Inter are challenging for the Serie A title this season after going 10 years without winning it

Antonio Conte is looking to bring the glory days back to Inter after arriving at the club last year

Antonio Conte is looking to bring the glory days back to Inter after arriving at the club last year

They are eight points off leaders Lazio in third but have two games in hand on Simone Inzaghi’s side, with champions Juventus currently sat second.

Zhang insists the club’s owners, Suning, are determined to make them a force to be reckoned with both domestically and in Europe.

He added: ‘Since Inter was bought by Suning, the club has gone through a huge transformation. Firstly, our performance on the pitch. Secondly, our commercial and marketing value. You can see from our digital platforms; the numbers are double or triple to what they were a couple of years ago.’

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praises Fred after Manchester United midfielder’s improvement

‘He’s really taken on the challenge’: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praises Fred after Manchester United midfielder’s improvement

  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Fred following the midfielder’s improvement
  • Fred was taken off at half-time away to Everton last season but has bounced back
  • Solskjaer feels Luke Shaw will rise to competition provided by Brandon Williams

Fred the red has won praise for transforming his Manchester United career since being taken off at half-time during last season’s 4-0 drubbing at Everton.

It’s a different Fred who returns to the Goodison Park bearpit on Sunday having been one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best players this season and scoring twice in Thursday’s Europa League win against Bruges.

The United boss says the £52million Brazilian deserves huge credit for adapting to the demands of English football after his tough start.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Fred after the Manchester United midfielder’s improvement

‘He’s got used to it,’ expressed Solskjaer. ‘You have to play more one and two touch in the Premier League. You don’t have time for three or four touches or to get your studs on the ball, all those little habits Brazilian players have from a slower type of game.

‘Fred has really taken on the challenge. He had a first tough season but he’s known we believe in him. He is a top human being.

‘He struggled with the language last season but it’s easier for him to communicate with (coach) Martyn Pert coming in with fluent Portuguese.’

United are unbeaten in seven matches – conceding just once in that time.

Besides the defensive cover Fred gives his team-mates from midfield, there have been other notable individual improvements including left-back Luke Shaw who has responded well to the challenge set down by his younger rival Brandon Williams.

Solskjaer believes that Luke Shaw will rise to the competition provided by Brandon Williams

Solskjaer believes that Luke Shaw will rise to the competition provided by Brandon Williams

‘I would think he (Shaw) would respond to the competition because you either accept that kid is taking my place or you take up the challenge and improve your own game.

‘Luke is very focussed and concentrated. He’s fitter, he is consistently fit now, he’s fitter, and become a dad. He’s matured a lot and it’s great to see.

‘Luke has had his difficulties and the injury (a broken leg in 2015) was a bad one. Mentally that was difficult but he’s someone you want to see do well. Luke really cares for the kid (Williams) and tries to help him, but he wants to play himself.’

Both could feature if Solskjaer opts for a back-five on Sunday afternoon. Eric Bailly could also continue. United have kept clean sheets in both his appearances this season and he hasn’t been on the losing side for club or country for more than a year.

United will assess Anthony Martial who missed the midweek game after feeling a twinge around his thigh during training on Wednesday.

Matthijs de Ligt had already decided to move to Juventus BEFORE Ronaldo’s charm offensive

‘Cristiano didn’t make a difference’: Matthijs de Ligt reveals he had already decided to move to Juventus BEFORE Ronaldo’s on-the-field charm offensive… after being convinced by ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri

Matthijs de Ligt has admitted he had already decided to move to Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to him at the Nations League finals.

The Dutch defender, one of the most sought after prospects in world football this summer, signed with the Serie A giants earlier this week in a deal worth £67.8million.

One of the most intriguing details of his transfer saga, however, came when Ronaldo encouraged him to move to Turin after Portugal’s win over Holland in June but De Ligt insists that conversation had nothing to do with his eventual transfer.

Matthijs de Ligt finally signed with Juventus earlier this week in a deal worth £67.8million

De Ligt admits he had already decided on Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to him

De Ligt admits he had already decided on Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to him

De Ligt sealed the move with a kiss as girlfriend AnneKee Molenaar posted this on Instagram

‘I’m still young but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience for a 19-year-old, that’s why I made this move to gain more experience and to learn from the players here,’ he said in a press conference on Friday.

‘It’s a big step, my first outside of my home country. I was really honoured with how the Juventus fans welcomed me and I hope that I can give a lot back.

‘After the Nations League final I was already sure that I wanted to join Juventus, but it was still a big compliment to have Cristiano ask me to join here but it didn’t make the difference.

‘I have to get used to a new sporting culture here and a new sporting environment and I hope that I can give my best.’

De Ligt is looking forward to getting down to business after his drawn-out transfer saga

The former Ajax starlet addressed the world's media during his unveiling on Friday morning

The former Ajax starlet addressed the world’s media during his unveiling on Friday morning

De Ligt also revealed that all it took was a quick chat with manager Maurizio Sarri was enough to convince him that the footballing philosophy in Turin would match his own.

He added: ‘I spoke to Sarri on the phone before coming just to get to know each other.

‘He was one of the reasons that I wanted to join here, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defence.

‘In Holland there is a lot of building from the back and defending high up the pitch. Italy is more about zonal marking and defending together, I think that Juve can help me and I can help them.

‘I’m 19, I can still improve and I want to do that. It’s important to work hard every day and to learn and I hope to become a better player.’

De Ligt, who played a starring role in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last season, also revealed he was a boyhood Juve fan. He believes the atmosphere among Juventus fans when playing there last season was also attractive.

De Ligt spoke with manager Maurizio Sarri on the phone and he described his tactical style

De Ligt spoke with manager Maurizio Sarri on the phone and he described his tactical style

He is excited to be playing in front of Juventus fans regularly after last season's taste with Ajax

He is excited to be playing in front of Juventus fans regularly after last season’s taste with Ajax

‘The photo of me in a Juventus shirt was taken when I was about six or seven, at that time (Fabio) Cannavaro was a defender that I admired,’ he said. ‘I always had a good feeling about Juventus and I’ve always been a fan.

‘When I played here with Ajax I was really impressed with the atmosphere of the Allianz. There are four competitions and we want to win them all. This is the mentality of Juventus.

‘I came here because Italy is one of the most traditional countries for defenders. Juventus is a great forwards step for me. Pressure is normal in football and for me it’s not a problem. I will show what I’m capable of on the pitch.

‘Ajax was a younger environment and here I hope that I can learn from great champions like (Giorgio) Chiellini, (Gianluigi) Buffon, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and many others.’

Aymeric Laporte called up to France senior squad but Didier Deschamps drops injured N’Golo Kante

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte earns long awaited call-up to France senior squad… as Didier Deschamps drops injury-troubled N’Golo Kante after Frank Lampard’s plea

Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte has earned a long-awaited international call-up for France’s senior squad for two upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers – but injury-troubled N’Golo Kante is left out.

The 25-year-old defender was last summoned for international duty in 2017 but is yet to be handed his first cap.

Laporte had regularly featured for France’s international youth sides, but was sidelined by boss Didier Deschamps because of a fractured relationship between the two.

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte has received a long-awaited call-up for France

FRANCE’S 23-MAN SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Alphonse Areola, Mike Maignan

Defenders: Benjamin Pavard, Leo Dubois, Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet, Aymeric Laporte, Kurt Zouma, Lucas Hernandez, Lucas Digne

Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Corentin Tolisso, Steven Nzonzi, Moussa Sissoko

Forwards: Antoine Griezmann, Nabil Fekir, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Lemar, Jonathan Ikone, Olivier Giroud, Wissam Ben Yedder

However, the centre half’s stellar form at the Etihad now means he is set to finally make his senior debut.

N’Golo Kante was a surprise absentee from the 23-man squad, after Chelsea boss Frank Lampard implored France to drop the midfielder amid concerns over several injury setbacks.

Kante has struggled to regular match action since the tail end of last season, and was subsequently benched for the Premier League opener at Manchester United after falling short in a race to be fit.

He has made a handful of appearances under Lampard so far, but missed out entirely on the trip to Norwich because of a sprained ankle picked up at Old Trafford.

The string of concerns led to the new Blues boss appealing to Deschamps to allow Kante to remain at the club and continue rehabilitation during the international break.

‘It is a difficult one. He has had four years of constantly playing,’ Lampard had said.

N'Golo Kante was a notable absentee, however, amid concerns over a long-term knee injury

N’Golo Kante was a notable absentee, however, amid concerns over a long-term knee injury

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard had appealed to France to leave the midfielder out of the squad

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard had appealed to France to leave the midfielder out of the squad

‘[The] injury from the Europa League final has affected his pre-season. Then he hurt himself against Man United.

‘We are trying to get him through it. The international break will be great for him to get the injury right. It would be great for everybody [if Kante stays] because he’s been playing game after game after game.’

France take on Albania and Andorra in successive Euro 2020 qualifiers next month, with Les Bleus currently sitting at the summit of Group H.

Belgium 3-3 England: Lionesses may need to ‘suffer more pain’ – Neville

Highlights: Belgium 3-3 England

England boss Phil Neville said his side might need to “suffer more pain” in future friendlies after they drew with Belgium in their first game since the World Cup.

Having led 2-0, Nikita Parris’s late penalty saved England’s embarrassment as they avoided a first defeat by the Red Flames since 1980.

England were sloppy in defence as the hosts, ranked 15 places below the Lionesses at 19 in the world, entertained a lively crowd in Leuven.

Neville said: “The goals were really disappointing in a week where we have worked hard on being compact and hard to beat and three crosses into the box beat us. I’m not happy.

“I feel that with the plan we have for the next three camps we might have to suffer some pain a little bit. But I don’t want us to suffer pain in the areas we are working on. I want us to be better in those areas and that was the disappointment tonight.”

The Lionesses began positively as Jodie Taylor opened the scoring from Georgia Stanway’s through ball before Beth Mead followed up after Taylor’s shot was saved.

Steph Houghton then hit the post from a free-kick as the Lionesses threatened to run riot.

But poor defending let Belgium back into the game as goalkeeper Carly Telford’s own goal and an Ella van Kerkhoven header levelled matters on the stroke of half-time.

It got worse for Neville’s side in the second half as Houghton’s fluffed clearance fell straight to Van Kerkhoven to make it 3-2 before Parris’ penalty earned a draw.

Neville said before the game that he was looking for improvement from his side after their fourth-place finish in France, but on this evidence there is plenty to work on as England play a series of friendlies in the build-up to hosting Euro 2021.

“We cannot waste time on any camp thinking we will get it right at the Olympics, get it right at the SheBelieves Cup or Euro 2021,” Neville added. “While we are waiting, other teams are improving and we have to make sure we are improving faster than anybody else.”

Sloppiness costs England

Prior to the match, Neville also said England were still “hurting” from their failure to make it past the World Cup semi-finals and had an “incredible desire” to do better.

But there were several periods of sloppiness which were also a feature of some games in France, and it is a trait the team can ill-afford if they have designs of winning a gold medal in two years’ time.

The Lionesses were missing several key players through injury, including Ellen White, Jill Scott and Fran Kirby, as Lucy Bronze, who became the first English player to win Uefa’s Women’s player of the year award, moved into midfield.

Neville said there “was a never a moment in the game where Bronze looked like a full-back playing in midfield” and it was a strong England side, who once again were clinical but failed to manage the game once taking the lead.

The match was characterised by a home fan who attempted to stir the team on her own via a megaphone as they fell behind to two slick England goals.

As Stanway’s clever pass set up Taylor, Mead seemingly put England in control and Houghton rattled the woodwork, the supporter was an isolated voice.

But by the end of the first half, she had the stand she occupied rocking after England let their lead slip and then went behind.

Thankfully for the visitors, Parris helped them avoid a terrible start to their Euro 2021 campaign as she slammed home a penalty after Janice Cayman’s handball.

Having missed two at the World Cup it was at least one sign that some lessons had been learned.

Williams extends cap record

On a chaotic night for England, Fara Williams came on during the second half to extend her caps record to 171 and she did help to steady things for England later on in the game.

Chelsea forward Beth England made her debut from the bench and impressed Neville, but there were still chances for Belgium as Tine de Caigny’s shot was blocked late on.

The worrying aspect for Neville will be that his side also suffered friendly defeats by teams ranked lower than them in the build-up to the World Cup.

At the time, he brushed them off saying England would come good in the World Cup, which they did to some degree based on the record TV audiences which followed them to their third successive semi-final at a major tournament.

However, the inclusion of 35-year-old Williams underlined the limited midfield resources that Neville has at his disposal.

With Scott rested and Jordan Nobbs and Izzy Christiansen still recovering from long-term injuries, Neville needs them back in the team.

The England head coach, who has said he will pick players based on their character, also needs to ensure his players can concentrate for longer periods in games.

There will be no inquest given it is a first game of the season, but Neville will want England to improve when they face Norway in their next friendly game in Bergen on Tuesday.

Player of the match – Ella van Kerkhoven (Belgium)

Van Kerkhoven starred for her side and was in the right place to capitalise on poor defending to score twice

Transfer news: Man United confirm Alexis Sanchez has joined Inter Milan on season-long loan deal

Alexis Sanchez finally completes loan move to Inter Milan from Manchester United, with Italian side saying: ‘He wants nothing except to play football’

Alexis Sanchez has completed his loan move to Inter Milan from Manchester United.

The winger had fallen out of favour at Old Trafford and will now hope to rediscover his best form at Inter.

A statement on Inter’s official website read: ‘Throughout Alexis’s life, football has always represented everything, and he has always been happiest with a ball between his feet.

Alexis Sanchez poses in the Inter Milan shirt after joining on loan from Manchester United

Sanchez posed alongside a picture of fellow Chilean Ivan Zamorano, who also played for Inter

Sanchez was in a positive mood as he secured a season-long loan move to the Italian side

Sanchez was in a positive mood as he secured a season-long loan move to the Italian side

Inter Milan welcomed Alexis Sanchez to the club, saying: 'He has always been happiest with a ball between his feet'.

Inter Milan welcomed Alexis Sanchez to the club, saying: ‘He has always been happiest with a ball between his feet’.

‘From now on he’ll have a chance to do this in Nerazzurri colours. So, on behalf of the entire Nerazzurri family, we’d like to wish him a very warm welcome and the best of luck. #WelcomeAlexis.’

Sanchez had not yet met his new Inter team-mates, who were snapped while out for dinner by Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian also joined Inter from Manchester United this summer, but in a permanent deal.

Sanchez was in a positive mood as he posed wearing the Inter shirt for the first time, and he posed alongside a picture of fellow Chilean Ivan Zamorano, who played for Inter between 1996 and 2001.

Recapping Sanchez’s football journey, Inter said: ‘Alexis had a great future ahead of him and he wanted nothing except to play football. He always said so, practically from the day he was born on 19 December 1988.

‘His first ever football boots were a gift from the mayor of his town, and he wore these for his first real footballing experience with Cobreloa.’

Sanchez has yet to meet his Inter team-mates, who were pictured out for dinner together

Sanchez has yet to meet his Inter team-mates, who were pictured out for dinner together

Alexis Sanchez posted a farewell message to his Manchester United teammates on Thursday

Alexis Sanchez posted a farewell message to his Manchester United teammates on Thursday

Sanchez posted a picture with some of his United teammates on his Instagram account

Sanchez posted a picture with some of his United teammates on his Instagram account

Alexis Sanchez waves to fans upon his arrival for medical checks in Milan on Wednesday

Alexis Sanchez waves to fans upon his arrival for medical checks in Milan on Wednesday

It marks a fresh start for Sanchez and brings to an end a torrid 18 months at Man United

It marks a fresh start for Sanchez and brings to an end a torrid 18 months at Man United

Earlier, Sanchez posted a farewell message to his United teammates.

Sanchez previously spent three seasons in Serie A with Udinese from 2008 to 2011.

Sanchez brings to an end a torrid 18 months at United, where he scored just five goals in 45 appearances following his arrival from Arsenal.

Posting a picture with some of his United teammates on his Instagram account, Sanchez wrote: ‘Good luck for the rest of the season @manchesterunited.’

He will now link up with former United striker Romelu Lukaku, who left the club in a £73million deal this summer.

Sanchez will still be United's second-highest earner despite being on loan to Inter Milan

Sanchez will still be United’s second-highest earner despite being on loan to Inter Milan

Sportsmail reported earlier, however, that Sanchez will still be United’s second-highest earner despite being on loan to Inter.

It is understood that the 30-year-old pockets an eye-watering £400,000 a week, before bonuses, at United after signing from Arsenal last January.

Inter have agreed to pay close to £4.5m of the Chile international’s £21m annual salary, meaning United will have to subsidise a significant portion of his wages.

Inter Milan will pay £4.5m of his annual £21m earnings - the rest will be covered by United

Inter Milan will pay £4.5m of his annual £21m earnings – the rest will be covered by United

Sanchez has sealed a reunion with close friend and former Man United teammate Lukaku

Sanchez has sealed a reunion with close friend and former Man United teammate Lukaku