June 7, 2023

Phil Foden has denied claims he is a “world class” talent worthy of mention alongside Kylian Mbappe and Neymar but vowed to finally deliver his best for England at the World Cup.

The 22-year-old is a four-time Premier League winner who has taken his game at Manchester City to new heights this season but has previously failed to reproduce those displays under manager Gareth Southgate.

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Foden has scored only twice in 18 international appearances but arrives in Qatar as one of England’s highest-profile players, pushing to start alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in Southgate’s three-man attack.

Asked whether he was felt part of the same elite group of global stars including France‘s Mbappe and Brazil‘s Neymar, Foden said: “No, definitely not. The people you’ve just mentioned there are way above me at the moment but I like to think I could be there one day.

“It’s all about taking small steps in the right direction. I just want to take my club form into the national team. With my club form this year, I’ve been scoring a lot of goals and I want to bring that to the national team.

“I’ve got to score in big games and big finals to be world class. I know I’m capable of doing that so it’s something I strive for and look forward to.

“Have England seen the best of me? Definitely not. I don’t think it is easy coming into a team and not knowing the players very well.

“You have to learn to play with different players and what they like best — running behind, or wanting balls to feet. Just little details like that. I have had enough experience in the England team to understand the players. Hopefully I can bring that into the World Cup.

“I definitely should have scored a lot more for England really. We have quality in every area on the season, so we can’t always rely on Harry because teams are going to try to cut him off, because of how good he is.

“It is going to take not just Harry to step up this tournament. Us attacking players are going to have to step up as well as times.”

After England’s training session on Thursday, Conor Coady revealed the players are yet to decide whether to take a knee in their opening match against Iran on Monday.

The anti-discrimination gesture became a controversial subject during last year’s delayed Euro 2020 finals as England were booed by some of their own supporters but Qatar’s questionable human rights record and treatment of LGBTQIA+ people has revived the debate.

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“At the minute it’s not something we’ve spoken about as a team yet,” Coady said. “I think we’ve been concentrating in terms of the game itself coming up, I’m sure that question will be brought up in the next few days in terms of how we’re going to go about Monday. But in terms of the meetings that we’ve had, it’s been solely on football.”

England finished the day by hosting a group of migrant workers for an informal training session which ended with a penalty shootout before Southgate and his players signed shirts, posed for pictures and gave out tickets for Monday’s Group B opener against Iran.

The workers were selected by FIFA as part of a series of cultural events aimed at tackling the narrative around human rights issues in Qatar.

The Guardian newspaper estimated that around 6,500 workers died in the construction of stadiums for the finals, a figure strongly denied by the Supreme Committee, responsible for organising the tournament.

Amnesty International, together with a number of other organisations, have called on FIFA to set up a compensation scheme to support migrant workers, a proposal FIFA president Gianni Infantino is yet to address publicly.

In a series of awkward interviews, one worker selected to speak to media rejected the scepticism towards Qatar’s treatment of migrants.

“Qatar is a good country, it is a safe country and workers have freedom in Qatar,” said Ashlan, 27, an electrician born in India working on Al Bayt Stadium.

Speaking with the aid of a translator, he refused to confirm how much he was paid and reluctantly revealed he shared a room with three other people.

“It’s good conditions,” he added, before being asked whether he was aware of any migrant workers who had endured a bad experience in Qatar.

“It is a good country. It is freedom in Qatar.”

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