BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi made his third England start in their last five games as Gareth Southgate’s men defeated Malta 2-0 to secure top spot in their 2024 UEFA European Qualification group with one game remaining.
The match was a significant milestone for the defender – it was his first full 90 minutes in a competitive game at Wembley for England’s senior side and it puts him firmly in contention for a long-term starting spot for the national team.
“It’s always great to be given an opportunity to play for your country and I’m super grateful and glad we got the win today,” said the 23-year-old after the victory thanks to a Harry Kane 75th-minute strike, which added to a first-half own goal from Malta’s Enrico Pepe.
“I’ve always said that since I’ve come here- to England – I’ve always felt comfortable because the team makes you feel comfortable regardless of whether you’re playing games or not.
“We’ve got such a good culture here that whoever comes in the team comes in and gets up to speed really quickly and feels comfortable around the lads.
“I’m just grateful to be given the chance and being helped by so many top players.”
One of those players is Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, who Guehi lined up alongside as the right-sided centre-back for most of the match, briefly moving to the left in the closing moments of the first half.
“He’s such an experienced player, he makes things a lot easier for me,” said Guehi about his growing partnership with the 30-year-old, who has 61 caps for England.
“All the experienced lads do. As someone that comes in and hasn’t played too many games, it’s those players around you that make it easy for you, so credit to all of those really.”
The victory also ensured that, barring a mathematical upset against North Macedonia in their final qualifier on Monday, England will be a top seed going into the competition draw in December.
“It’s massive,” said Guehi about the strong position England could find themselves in. “Once we secured qualification that – finishing top – was definitely our next aim, our next goal, so it was important that we got the win today. I’m really glad for the team, it puts us in a good position for the draw.”
All England fans will be hoping that Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane will be able to continue his current form of scoring in each of his last eight games for club and country going into the European championship in Germany next summer.
And Guehi was full of praise for the England captain.
”He’s always leading by example, he’s such a top player,” said the centre-back, who has made 95 appearances for the Eagles.
“He’s someone that leads from the front, someone that really helps the team and someone that ultimately does his job to the best of his ability.
“He’s one of the best in the world.”
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