Phil Foden hopes club form translates to starring role for England at World Cup

Phil Foden knows it is about time he takes his club form onto the international stage as the England midfielder looks to establish himself among the world’s best.

Long tipped as a future star, the 22-year-old is considered one of the most exciting talents around thanks to his key role in Pep Guardiola’s swashbuckling Manchester City side.

The four-time Premier League winner’s experience belies his tender years, but Foden is quick to admit he has yet to replicate his club performance in his 18 England appearances to date.

Asked if England have seen the best of him, Foden said: “Definitely not, but I don’t think it is easy coming into a team and not knowing the players very well.

“You have to learn how 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. I am still learning, still learning the group of players as well. I am hoping this World Cup could be good for me and hopefully I can bring goals.”

Foden has only scored twice for his country – just one of the reasons he says he cannot be categorised alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe.

“No, definitely not,” he said. “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.

Lionel Messi
Phil Foden says he has a way to go to be considered in the same bracket as Lionel Messi (Mike Egerton/PA)

“It’s all about taking small steps in the right direction. Like I said, 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.”

Put to him that many onlookers would describe him as world class, Foden said: “I’ve got to prove that.

“I’ve got to score in big games, 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.”

This is Foden’s second major tournament with England after last year’s Euros, which started with hopes of the then bleach-blond talent replicating Euro 96 star Paul Gascoigne.

“It was unbelievable to see everybody doing it,” he said. “My phone was daily going off with, ‘This kid’s got the haircut!’

Phil Foden
Phil Foden went blond for Euro 2020 (Nick Potts/PA)

“It was quite surreal to see how many people did it. I think I am just going to stick with what I have got this time round unfortunately.”

In the end, a tournament that promised much ended in disappointment as Foden watched the agonising final shoot-out loss to Italy from the stands after suffering a freak foot injury.

“It was really difficult,” he said of the Euro 2020 final. “Probably one of the biggest games of my life.

“To sit out of it with injury was difficult, but I took it as a positive as well, just being a part of the squad, part of what we did, and tried to take the little positives away from it.

“It was literally nothing, doing a bit of long passing after training and I decided to do some kind of touch and I just felt something in my foot. I couldn’t walk after.

“It is strange how things happen sometimes.

“It was quite bad actually. They said to me it’s an injury you don’t see very often. It was quite a strange one.”

Foden bounced back from that 10-week injury lay-off impressively and heads to the World Cup having performed brilliantly for City this term.

Furthermore, the 22-year-old and Conor Gallagher are the only members of the squad in Qatar to have won a World Cup with England – a 2017 triumph at Under-17s level that saw Foden named the tournament’s best player.

“It was at youth level but there were still a lot of people watching – something back then that we weren’t used to, playing on such a big stage,” he said.

“And it changed some of our lives forever, with how much we got talked about in the media and things.

“It’s all about gaining experience for when it comes into big games like this, you know how to handle situations. It’s all just about learning and taking it into men’s football.”

Rhian Brewster, Joel Latibeaudiere and Phil Foden
Phil Foden (right) was named the best player at the Under-17 World Cup in 2017 (Steven Paston/PA)

Foden said there was an unwavering belief within the group that they would lift the Under-17 World Cup five years ago and pointed to a similar feeling around the group in Qatar.

“It’s the same here,” he added. “Obviously from the Euros, making it to the final gives the team a big lift.

“I think Harry (Kane) has already touched on it. He sees us as one of the favourites. We’ve just got to be confident and believe in that.”