07 September 2023

Pressure on Henderson and hope for Nketiah – Ukraine v England talking points

07 September 2023

England continue their quest to qualify for Euro 2024 when they travel to face Ukraine in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

Gareth Southgate’s side have won all four Group C qualifiers to date and can take a big step towards Germany next summer if they extend that run.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the major talking points ahead of the fixture.

Ukraine on the road again

The location of Friday’s qualifier was not confirmed until July 11 with Ukraine continuing to play their de facto home matches on neutral ground.

Since the Russian invasion last year, Ukraine have played ‘home’ games in the Polish cities of Lodz and Krakow as well as Trnava in Slovakia.

Now managed by Sergei Rebrov and with fit-again Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko available, they move on to Wroclaw aiming to strengthen their grip on second place in the group ahead of a tricky trip to Italy next week.

Henderson to face criticism?

England will – officially at least – have the backing of 3,417 supporters inside the Stadion Wroclaw.

If he features, it will be first time Jordan Henderson has represented England since he completed his controversial move to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq in the summer.

Having been a prominent supporter of LGBTQ+ rights before leaving for Saudi Arabia, Henderson has come in for criticism and some fans have suggested turning their back on the former Liverpool captain if and when he takes to the field.

Maguire to move aside?

Southgate included Harry Maguire in his squad despite the former Manchester United captain not starting a Premier League game this season.

He played 23 minutes off the bench in Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Arsenal having slipped down the pecking order at Old Trafford – although he has maintained the faith of his England boss.

Maguire’s 57 caps dwarf the combined eight won by the other three centre-backs in the squad but he could yet lose his grip on a starting berth as Southgate turns an eye to the future with the likes of Levi Colwill, Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori – as well as the in-form Lewis Dunk – pushing to start.

Ready, Eddie, go!

As one England door may be creaking to a close, Eddie Nketiah will be hoping to firmly put his foot in another.

The Arsenal forward has been called into the senior squad for the first time and has a goalscoring pedigree at international level with a record 16 goals for the England Under-21s.

He has started the season well for the Gunners and will be aiming to show he can be in the conversation for a supporting role to captain Harry Kane come the finals next summer.

You do the maths

England could actually secure qualification for Euro 2024 during the current international break – although it would require a very unlikely series of results.

Victory over Ukraine would be a start but they would also need Italy to beat North Macedonia on Saturday.

England then face Scotland in a friendly on Tuesday, when a win for Italy over Ukraine and a shock Malta success against North Macedonia would send Southgate’s side to Germany.

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