Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

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Southgate backing his rising stars to flourish against might of Brazil

England v Brazil, International Friendly, Wembley Stadium, Tonight, 8.00pm

By Simon Peach

England manager Gareth Southgate will continue putting faith in "the innocence of youth" as he prepares to face a Brazil side he rates as the best in the world.

Southgate has already handed 13 debuts in as many matches as Three Lions boss, leaning heavily on players he worked with in the Football Association's development teams, and has summoned another three - Dominic Solanke, Lewis Cook and Angus Gunn - to join the squad ahead of tonight's friendly.

Eric Dier, England's fifth youngest post-war captain at 23, will retain the armband after a highly encouraging 0-0 draw against World champions Germany on Friday and Southgate is hoping to see another show of promise at Wembley.

"Young players bring enthusiasm, energy and they bring no cynicism. I think that's healthy for everybody," he said.

"If you spoke to any of the staff or players this week, that has been the environment. The innocence of youth can be wonderful. In some instances it can be a real advantage, maybe in others it can be a disadvantage. We've got to try and play on the strengths of it and help them as much as possible.

"We think it's the right route to go, a path that can pay benefits for us moving forward.

"Whether that's next summer or beyond, whether that's for me as a manager or other people, I think we've got to make decisions that are right for England."

There was the hint of a warning to experienced players such as Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jermain Defoe, all overlooked for duty this month too.

"I saw more in one game (against Germany) from some of those youngsters than you might see in many more games from other players," Southgate added. "It was exciting."

Brazil are officially ranked second in the world, behind Germany, but Southgate sees his final game of 2017 as the toughest.

"We're playing the best team in the world who have annihilated everybody in South American qualification. We have to make sure that we're savvy in the way we're set up," added Southgate.

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