Injured Liverpool star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain admits watching England's World Cup opener was tough

Simon Peach 26/06/2018
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Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found it tough watching England’s World Cup opener, especially as the injured midfielder believes Gareth Southgate‘s men boast the talent to mount a serious challenge in Russia.

Four years on from a knee issue denying him an appearance in Brazil, the 24-year-old’s hopes of performing on the global stage were again cruelly scotched.

A knee ligament injury ended Oxlade-Chamberlain’s season in April, ruling him out of Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final and England’s tilt at World Cup glory.

“I’ve been watching the World Cup – following it and supporting the boys every inch of the way,” he told talkSPORT.

“I must admit the first game was tough to watch, the Tunisia game. It’s obviously a moment when you realise what a great opportunity you’re missing. But these things happen in life and I am keeping positive.

“The Champions League final as well, that was obviously devastating to miss. The final whistle in that game, when we obviously didn’t win, sort of all this emotion rushing over me and something I’ve never really experienced before.

“I was in tears on the pitch and I am not a crier at all, but I think I was sort of clinging on to that for the lads and for Liverpool, for the club. I know how much everyone wanted it, and myself as well.

“When you get injured en route to something special, you’d hope it ends out in the right way so it was all kind of worthwhile.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 3

“Seeing the boys putting in the performances leading up to that and even in the final, I was so proud of them all and it’s just a shame we couldn’t get that one over the line.

“But I am positive and moving forward, so I am all good thank you.”

That positivity is matched when it comes to England’s chances in Russia, where progress has been sealed with a match to spare.

Thursday’s match against Belgium will decide who finishes top of Group G, with the Three Lions having secured a last-gasp 2-1 win against Tunisia before humiliating Panama 6-1.

“I definitely think we have the talent, there’s no doubting that,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said of England’s World Cup chances. “A lot of it comes down to who turns up on the day.

“I know the team have been working massively on being resilient and hard to beat, sticking together until the end – so far the boys have shown that really well.

“We’ve given ourselves the best chance and that’s all we can do.”

England’s hopes are also boosted further by talisman Harry Kane, whose five goals put him atop of the Golden Boot standings.

“We all know how capable he is of scoring, but to take it to the World Cup is what all top goalscorers try to do,” Oxlade-Chamberlain added.

“He’s on a great run of form at the moment and long may that continue in this tournament.

“He’s been brilliant leading the boys, not just vocally, but with his performances, which is massive.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Belgium's Toby Alderweireld insists the only result they want against England is a victory

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England warning: Toby Alderweireld

Toby Alderweireld has warned England that Belgium will have nothing but victory in mind in their World Cup Group G showdown in Kaliningrad.

The sides will battle it out for top spot in the pool having both seen off Tunisia and Panama to set up a highly anticipated meeting in which the winners will claim top spot.

They are currently locked together on six points with the same goal difference, having scored and conceded the same number of goals, although England are currently ahead by virtue of fewer bookings.

Amid a debate over whether it would be better to finish first or second, Alderweireld told a press conference: “We are going to try to win the game, because as a footballer you want to win every game.”

The defender, who has started both of his side’s games to date, is one of three Tottenham players in Belgium’s squad alongside Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele, and could be surrounded by more familiar faces if he keeps his place on Thursday with club-mates Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Harry Kane among the England ranks.

Quoted by Belgian Red Devils on Twitter, he said: “Before the World Cup, in the Spurs dressing room, we spoke a lot about the game against England. We are looking forward to it.

“England will be a very good test. I am ready if the coach needs me.”

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has hinted he will use the depth of his squad despite what is at stake in the game, although it remains to be seen whether striker Romelu Lukaku will be fit to play any part.

The Manchester United frontman suffered an ankle injury during Saturday’s 5-2 win over Tunisia and did not train on Tuesday morning after having a scan the previous day.

But club-mate Marouane Fellaini, who was used as a substitute in that game, is confident that even a much-changed side would do the job required.

He said: “If we want to go far in this World Cup, we will need every player. Everybody is ready to play, everybody wants to play.

“It will be an interesting game against England, but it will be a strange one also because both teams are qualified.”

Like Alderweireld, Fellaini will know some of his potential opponents very well, and he was full of praise for United and England midfielder Jesse Lingard.

He said: “He’s a very clever player on the pitch and we have seen that. He has done very well in the last few years – that’s why he plays for Manchester United.

“He’s a great person, a great character. He loves a joke and a laugh and, in the group, that’s important.”

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No goalkeeper would have saved Harry Kane's penalties against Panama, says Jordan Pickford

Denzil Pinto 26/06/2018
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Flying start: Harry Kane has been sensational for England so far

England’s World Cup number one Jordan Pickford insists no goalkeeper would be able to stop Harry Kane from scoring the sort of penalties he fired in against Panama on Sunday.

Kane twice scored from the spot as part of his hat-trick in the 6-1 thrashing of England’s Group G opponents – a result which sealed progression into the last 16 for Gareth Southgate’s side.

And Pickford, who has conceded a goal in each of his games in Russia so far, reckons the manner in which Kane dispatched his penalties was impressive to see.

Asked if the spot-kicks looked impossible to save, the Everton stopper said: “Pretty much.

“You have got to do a lot of guessing but the power behind it and the accuracy… both pens were the same and when Harry is finishing like that there is no chance.

“He is a top forward for starters, that is his main game – finishing. I was watching him from my end of the pitch and his two penalties were top drawer.”

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