England’s Southgate backs Toney’s quality ahead of Belgium friendly

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Ivan Toney’s qualities are “underestimated,”  England manager Gareth Southgate said as he tipped the in-form forward to make the most of his first start for the national team in Tuesday’s friendly against Belgium.

Toney, who has one cap for England as a substitute, is aiming to make his mark in the run-up to Euro 2024, with leading scorer Harry Kane absent due to injury.

The 28-year-old Toney has netted 4 goals in 10 games for Brentford since his return to action in January after serving an eight-month suspension for breaching FA betting rules.

Toney was left on the bench during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Brazil, with Aston Villa forward Ollie Watkins playing the full 90 minutes.

“I think sometimes the quality of Toney’s football can be underestimated. We’re still getting to know all of those strengths because until you work with a player more regularly, you don’t know them inside out,” Southgate told reporters.

“But with England, that’s the landscape; you don’t get hundreds of opportunities. He’s a confident guy, he comes in on the back of a good run of form with his club.

“He’s going to be on the field on Tuesday, no question. Confidence is crucial. That swagger, that self-belief. All of the top forward players have it,” Southgate added.

“You look at him as a big guy, but he’s not just a target man. His quality in link play is very good as well. His penalty record is definitely a great asset to have. We’ve obviously got to work out the balance of the squad.”