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5 talking points as England ease to friendly victory over Ivory Coast

England v Ivory Coast – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

England continued their preparations for the World Cup by cruising to a 3-0 friendly win over 10-man Ivory Coast at Wembley.

Goals from Ollie Watkins, captain Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings did the damage for the dominant Three Lions, while visiting captain Serge Aurier was sent off before the break.

Here, the PA news agency picks out some of the main talking points from a one-sided encounter.

Brilliant Bellingham

Jude Bellingham in action for England

Jude Bellingham was at the heart of almost everything that was good about England (Adam Davy/PA)

The youngest member of Gareth Southgate’s squad showed that age is but a number with a superb individual performance. The 18-year-old constantly drove on the hosts with rampaging runs from midfield and looks set to be an international regular for many years to come. Jude Bellingham was at the heart of almost everything that was good about England. The only thing missing for the Borussia Dortmund player was a maiden goal for his country, which almost arrived early on when Ivory Coast goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare managed to flick his effort on to a post following a slick one-two with skipper Sterling.

Jeers for Maguire

Harry Maguire in action for England

Harry Maguire shrugged off the negativity to produce a solid display (Nick Potts/PA)

Harry Maguire suffered the ignominy of being booed by sections of the Wembley crowd early in the evening. His name was greeted by a smattering of jeers when it was announced ahead of kick-off, as were his first few touches. The dissenting voices swiftly died down as the game got going, while it was noteworthy that they did not appear to emanate from the section of the stadium housing the hardcore England fans, who sang the name of the Manchester United captain on more than one occasion. Maguire shrugged off the negativity to produce a solid display.

Not so friendly

Serge Aurier (left) leaves the game after being shown a red card

Serge Aurier (left) left the game after being shown a red card (Adam Davy/PA)

England dominated the contest from the outset and were already in complete control when the visitors were reduced to 10 men just before the break. Prone to rash decisions during his four-year spell at Tottenham, defender Aurier – who now plays for Spanish side Villarreal – was shown two quickfire yellow cards to leave his side in the lurch. Southgate would no doubt have preferred Aurier to remain on the pitch. His premature departure significantly reduced the competitiveness of an already one-sided contest, rendering the second-half relatively meaningless in terms of testing England’s players.

Pointless evening for Pope

Nick Pope (left) and Phil Foden in good spirits

Nick Pope (left) was hardly tested (Adam Davy/PA)

The England player who probably suffered most from Aurier’s sending off was Nick Pope. With the count down to the World Cup on, goalkeeper Pope would have been eager to stake his claim as a genuine alternative to number one Jordan Pickford. Yet the Burnley man was unable to showcase his talents as he was reduced to the role of spectator for almost the entire evening. Franck Kessie’s audacious attempt from the second-half kick-off – which trundled tamely into Pope’s arms – was Ivory Coast’s sole attempt on target.

Tougher tests to come

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Following back-to-back Wembley wins over Switzerland and Ivory Coast, Southgate’s attention will swiftly turn to future challenges. It promises to be a momentous week for the England boss. The Three Lions will on Friday discover their group-stage opponents for the World Cup when the draw takes place in Doha. Southgate will then have to wait until the summer for the next opportunity to assess the progress of his team. England face four Nations League fixtures in June. Tantalising clashes with Germany and European champions Italy – which are sandwiched between two meetings with Hungary – will provide stern tests of the team’s credentials moving towards Qatar.

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