There was a cross for Mount following a moment of the industry from Kane that almost created an opening, while another route to goal was stopped by a backheel from Jan Vertonghen. As Belgium dashed into a two-goal lead, you wondered whether he would see the game out.
He has been in superb form for Aston Villa but the challenge was to translate that to England We have seen it happen with England before in the past. Players who have waited for opportunities struggle in their first big audition and then, before you know it, they are out of the system and never to be seen again. We really don’t want this fate to befall Grealish. What we want to see is if he can really translate his club form to the highest stage. Thankfully, in the next 45 minutes, we were given a proper insight that, yes, he will not be out of place. There is a reason why Grealish’s talents are described by team-mates as ‘special’ and here was a thrilling glimpse.
Doing it against a Wales team, in a friendly, that had been decimated by injuries was completely different from shining against Belgium, the world’s top-ranked team, but there was no doubt that Grealish provided the undisputed highlight from this defeat. You could see how he started to grow in confidence, how he could make those little moves with his feet in the way a hustler on the street plays with cups and ball – now you see it, now you don’t – and he started to wrap Belgium’s defense up in knots.
The best moment, without a doubt, was the back heel flick in the 78th minute that had Meunier looking like he had been pickpocketed. What a shame, then, his efforts did not lead to a fightback as he and his team deserved a goal. ‘A fantastic player,’ Kane said at the final whistle. ‘It was great to be on the pitch with him.’ The result was disappointing yet all was not lost. At one point, Southgate beckoned him over and said: ‘Come on… keep it going.’ You suspect, at long last, he has won him over. There will be other opportunities in the future. We can say that with certainty.
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