Southgate’s comments mean England risk missing out on wonderkid

Gareth Southgate looking to make it 51 wins as England boss against Ukraine

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England manager Gareth Southgate has hinted that in-form Folarin Balogun is behind domestic based strikers in the pecking order, running the risk of missing out on a potential long-term Harry Kane replacement to the USA. The 21-year-old on-loan Arsenal striker is yet to pledge his allegiance to a country, with the player eligible for England, the USA and Nigeria.

But Balogun’s international future has taken centre stage after his standout campaign in France’s top flight with Reims this season. Balogun has scored 18 goals across all competitions so far this season.

The striker has featured for England’s U21s this season, and was called up for March’s fixtures against France and Croatia. However, Balogun pulled out due to a reported injury before jetting off to the States for a break.

He has been pictured in the United States, where he was born, and has been seen attending an Orlando Magic basketball game and a New York Yankees baseball game. USA interim head coach Anthony Hudson also confirmed on Thursday that he had spoken with the player.

England manager Southgate cut a cool figure when addressing Balogun’s international situation, citing domestic-based strikers as well as his lack of Premier League experience as to why he must remain patient. But Balogun’s patience appears to be running thin, with the player seemingly hitting out at Southgate’s senior squad selection earlier this month on Instagram, and the manager’s latest comments could run the risk of England missing out on a long-term Kane, 29, replacement.

Speaking in a press conference, Southgate said: “It is up to the player to weigh up where his heart feels. Is he prepared to wait a little bit for an opportunity if he backs himself and feels he can push his way into our squad? Because anybody who has followed us will know that we will give young players a chance. So, we cannot go and give first-team call-ups to someone just because we don’t want them to go somewhere else.

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“We like Flo. He has obviously not had an opportunity in the Premier League yet, so we have to weigh up those goals to Ivan [Toney], for example, or Ollie Watkins. Or Eddie Nketiah, who has done really well with the opportunity he has had at Arsenal.

“I know there are going to be offers as 80 per cent of our players can play for more than one country now, and we are not arrogant expecting everybody to want to come to play for England. We have to make them feel wanted and feel part of that. Ultimately, it does not matter what you say. If you cannot give them the opportunity now, then some people are patient and want to see it through and are prepared to wait a bit and others want it now and I can totally understand that.”

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