Soccer-England midfielder Phillips ready if needed for France game


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - England Training - Al Wakrah SC stadium, Al Wakrah, Qatar - December 5, 2022 England's Kalvin Phillips during training REUTERS/Molly Darlington

AL WAKRAH, Qatar (Reuters) - England midfielder Kalvin Phillips's World Cup debut remained on hold with Declan Rice back in training on Thursday and ready for the Three Lions quarter-final showdown with France on Saturday.

After playing every match at Euro 2020, helping England to the final where they lost to Italy on penalties, Phillips was expected to play a defensive midfield role at the World Cup but has yet to get off the bench after a long-term shoulder injury.

Despite the injury, manager Gareth Southgate included Phillips on his Qatar squad and the 27-year-old Manchester City midfielder has worked hard to regain his fitness, pronouncing himself ready to go if called on.

"Yeah (I am ready) but I believe Dec is fit, he's back in training and he's fine," Phillips told reporters. "If something goes wrong then I'll be there and I'll do my best to be fit for 90 minutes. I want to play as many minutes as possible.

"Regardless of whether Dec is playing or I am, we'll do our best."

While Phillips is eager to see some action he conceded that getting on the pitch ahead of Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Rice, who have starred in the midfield, would be tough.

The trio will have their hands full against a France side led by the rampaging Kylian Mbappe.

"The three (midfielders) that have been playing have been doing an unbelievable job," said Phillips. "I would choose myself to play in the game but they have done so well so far and they've got results.

"Anyone who gets called upon would be ready for the challenge and be ready to do everything to help the team be successful.

"We have to think about how to stop him (Mbappe) and (Olivier) Giroud and (Antoine) Griezmann.

"We have been working on tactics to stop the whole team."

Phillips said England were massively excited to hear that forward Raheem Sterling would rejoin the squad in time for their clash with France at the weekend.

Sterling had returned home to England to be with his family following a robbery at his residence and did not play in their 3-0 win over Senegal in the last 16.

"A massive lift," said Phillips "He's an amazing player and obviously had to go home to deal with everything that is going on and we just hope everything is alright and he can rejoin us and play a big part in the next game.

"It isn't a nice feeling - when you are so far away from home and you've got family at home.

"There isn't much we can do about it but Raheem feels good enough now to join back up with us and we're very happy about that."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Al Wakrah; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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