Future England captain Bellingham proves he can cope with Euro 2020 pressure

Gareth Southgate casually dropped it in ahead of this game, almost as an afterthought.

“I’m looking at Jude this morning, at Declan, at Mason Mount … they are future captains of whatever teams they play in.”

Including England, we assume.

Jude Bellingham, 17 years of age, a Future England Captain.

No pressure then, son.

But you get the feeling Bellingham will cope with whatever pressure comes his way.

He does not turn 18 until the third week of the Euros and had previously made only two England appearances as a substitute.

Before his first start here, Jordan Henderson presented him with his shirt.

Yet international football already looks like Bellingham’s natural habitat.

Jude Bellingham (L) congratulates Bukayo Saka after his winning goal for England

The type of dynamism we saw in a performance against Manchester City during the club season might not have been replicated here but everything he did in a mainly deep-lying role was done in an accomplished manner.

There was a clever pass to Trent Alexander-Arnold, a combination that clicked instantly and there was a flicked finish that counted for nothing after an infringement in the build-up.

That disallowed effort gave a sneak insight into Bellingham’s penalty area presence. Again, for one so young, he can express himself physically.

Quite simply, he is a hugely exciting all-round talent. No wonder, on the day of his full England debut, he was named as the Bundesliga’s Newcomer of the Season.

To make the move to Borussia Dortmund as a teenager took some serious sort of single-mindedness.

To make such an immediate success of the move is a remarkable testament to his maturity.

But, as Southgate alluded to when sat alongside La Liga winner Kieran Trippier the other day, English football fans – and, yes, paid observers – can be a touch myopic.

The insularity of a Premier League watcher or pundit can be quite significant, hence why most, for example, find it baffling that Trippier has been ahead of Alexander-Arnold in Southgate’s right-back rankings.

Trippier was named in La Liga’s team of the season, hence there are two award-winners in England ranks but their deeds go relatively unheralded because they play their trade in foreign leagues.

But while most might not be overly familiar with Bellingham’s elegant style, most know he is going to be a major star.

If there was nothing sensational about his organised contribution, it was entirely in keeping with the occasion.

Bellingham was superb on his first start for England and staked a big claim for Euro 2020
Bellingham was superb on his first start for England and staked a big claim for Euro 2020

What did Southgate glean from this fairly turgid contest?

That Bukayo Saka is a justified inclusion in his squad and that Jesse Lingard is a harsh exclusion.

If Southgate was not taking four right-backs to the championships, Lingard could have gone as a very decent attacking option.

His clever role in the opening goal was typical of his form.

Bellingham also played a part in the breakthrough, winning possession to start the move which ended with Saka’s close-range finish.

Much like his overall performance, it was not flashy but it was very effective.

And that could well be his trademark in what will hopefully be a long and successful career.

After the standard raft of substitutions, Bellingham almost seemed to assume the role of organiser on the field.

Dare you say it, he looked and played like a captain.

That is a long, long way down the line but one thing is for sure … Jude Bellingham is here to stay.

S hould Bellingham start England’s first game at Euro 2020 vs Croatia? Let us know your starting XI below.

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