Assessing talented teenager Callum Hudson-Odoi’s full England debut in their 5-1 win over Montenegro…
Gareth Southgate said that the teenager was ready and Callum Hudson-Odoi proved it in Podgorica. On the night that he became the second youngest player to start a competitive game for England. The winger caused all sorts of problems for the Montenegro defence.
Only 18, Hudson-Odoi is yet to start a Premier League game for Chelsea and while there were some signs of naivety, the overriding impression based on this performance is that he has plenty to offer club and country right now. He even marked the occasion of his full England debut with an assist for Ross Barkley.
Not everything went Hudson-Odoi’s way. His first attempted dribble was a little loose. And he might have put in a stronger challenge in the build-up to the Montenegro goal that put England behind. But with the pressure on, his response showed character and quality.
After putting in a couple of dangerous crosses from the right flank. The teenager switched wings with Raheem Sterling and that was the catalyst for his best work. After hinting at his threat with one run, he cut inside with intent and saw his shot diverted in by Barkley.
Hudson-Odoi had spoken beforehand of how “there is no being nervous or shy” and that was evident in how he approached the challenge. It is a testament to the environment that Southgate has created that he felt able to do that. But it also speaks volumes for the player’s confidence.
“I am never nervous before games,” Hudson-Odoi told Sky Sportsafterwards, “I am always excited. I just can’t wait to play, no matter what. Hopefully through the game I was showing that I am not nervous and I am not scared, I just want to get the ball and do my stuff.”
Hudson-Odoi’s key moments
4 – First chance to dribble at the defence but the control is too loose
6 – Whipped cross from the right wing is headed out for a corner
18 – Fails to contest an aerial ball and Montenegro go on to score
21 – Puts in another inviting right-wing cross that Montenegro clear
23 – Dribbles with real intent from deep but doesn’t get his head up
35 – Now on the left he produces a good run to threaten the defence
39 – ASSIST! Cuts inside well and his shot is diverted in by Barkley
41 – Starts to showboat a bit with some clever skill and a no-look pass
50 – Lofts a cross to the far post that Sterling fires over the bar
51 – Wonderful touch as he ghosts by his marker and fires off a low shot
He enjoyed another good spell at the start of the second half. Pinging one pass out wide to Sterling. And then lofting in a cross that the Manchester City forward could only fire over from close range. Moments after that, Hudson-Odoi embarked on another driving run and forced a good save from Montenegro goalkeeper Danijel Petkovic low to his left.
When it was all over, he had completed 53 of his 59 passes and created more chances than any other player on the pitch. This is a player who will make things happen for England.
He didn’t get a goal of his own but clearly the youngster played his full part in an emphatic victory. Given that he has forced his way into this squad despite getting limited opportunities for his club. It would be a bit of a surprise if he is anything other than a regular after this showing.
What must Chelsea fans make of it all? “Ideally they’d have a certain number of games for their clubs. But I can’t wait for clubs to pick players 50 or 100 times,” Southgate had said when explaining his selection. “That’s not the landscape we’re operating in.”
Even so, the pressure will be mounting on Maurizio Sarri to give Hudson-Odoi more of a chance in the coming weeks. This is a prospect, for sure. But he is clearly more than that. “In the end, the players have to have the quality to play in this shirt,” Southgate had said. Hudson-Odoi has now shown everyone that he has that quality. He just needed a chance.
Gareth Southgate’s verdict on the new boys
“I think they can both be really proud of the week that they have had,” the England boss said of Hudson-Odoi and fellow full debutant Declan Rice.
“They have dipped their toes into international football and have settled into the group brilliantly.
“They have shown the right sort of humility coming in, they will have learnt a lot from the senior players, and their performances have been really good. Not perfect, but so many good things that they have both done. It has been really pleasing to give them both that opportunity this week.”