England star James Maddison trained at the World Cup for the first time ahead of the Three Lions’ mega World Cup clash with Wales on Tuesday. Maddison has not been fit to feature during the tournament due to a knee injury he suffered with Leicester in the Premier League.
There was plenty of clamour for the 26-year-old to be involved in the England World Cup squad despite him having just one cap. His seven goals and four assists in the top-flight this season made him a potential wildcard option for Southgate.
But Maddison’s involvement has been limited due to a knee injury. He was substituted during Leicester’s final Premier League game before the World Cup due to the issue.
The former Norwich ace has been seen in full team training for the first time since England’s first day in Qatar. The knee problem has largely kept him out of full football activity at the tournament.
Maddison has officially been named on the bench for England’s two Group B matches as Southgate is able to name the remainder of his 26-man squad as substitutes. But there has been little chance of the midfielder appearing.
Southgate could now turn to Maddison after England’s creative players floundered in Friday’s goalless draw with the USA. Southgate’s side created very few chances and managed just three shots on target against the Americans.
Maddison could be an option from the bench against Wales if the same happens in England’s final group-stage fixture. However, he might find himself given the Phil Foden treatment after the England boss bizarrely failed to use the Manchester City sensation on Friday night.
Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson all rose from the bench as the Three Lions chased a goal but Foden – England’s most technically gifted talent – remained unused. Southgate felt he needed other qualities on the pitch.
“We thought it was the right thing to do, to keep the team from the start, and then the wide players we went with Jack and Marcus ahead of Phil,” he explained.
“We thought Jack would keep the ball well for us and get us up the pitch and Marcus’ speed, we thought would also be a threat coming into that last part of the game.”
England are in a strong position to qualify for the last-16 even if they do beat Wales on Tuesday night. But as group leaders, a victory over their fellow home nation could present a favourable draw in the next round.