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Paul Ince
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Serbia v England: Paul Ince backing Three Lions to win Euros opener

Former England captain Paul Ince is backing England to beat Serbia in their opening Euro 2024 fixture on Sunday afternoon.

Ince, who was capped 53 times for England and featured at three major international tournaments, is wary of the threat posed by potential Euro 2024 dark horses Serbia, but he believes England can shake off their pre-tournament form and get their campaign off to the perfect start.

Paul Ince Serbia v England Prediction

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“The first game is always a nervy game. I've experienced enough of them, look at when we played Switzerland at Wembley in the first game of Euro 96 and it finished 1-1", said the former Manchester United and Liverpool midfielder.

“I just think losing to Iceland might be a kind of reality check that we needed to make sure we're focused. We need to make sure we're ready and concentrated for the first game because Serbia are decent, they have some good players in that side.

“These other teams are not scared of England, they're happy to go up against England as we saw with Iceland.

“Serbia will not be phased, so we need to be focused and we need to be on the ball. I think England will still win the game. I'll probably say 3-1 to England.”

Paul Ince on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kobbie Mainoo

In addition to England's defensive concerns, much of the debate ahead of their opening Euro 2024 game against Serbia has surrounded the centre of midfield.

Declan Rice is a certain starter but an out-of-form Kalvin Phillips and an ageing Jordan Henderson has resulted in a vacancy next to Rice ahead of the tournament.

There has been talk of Jude Bellingham dropping deeper despite an excellent season for Real Madrid in a more advanced role, while the likes of Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton's future credentials could be more in the present than first thought.

As for Ince, he believes the passing ability of Trent Alexander-Arnold cannot be ignored.

“When it comes to starting Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield, it’s a tricky one because Serbia have got some good players, look at Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic, they score goals for fun so defensively we have to be spot on.

“I think in the group stages you don't want to go all guns blazing, especially against a decent Serbia team. I like the idea of maybe putting Trent in there, alongside Rice. No one else has the passing ability that Trent has.

“If you ever want to get up the pitch, he can get you up the pitch. If you're playing the likes of Bukayo Saka, Anthony Gordon and Harry Kane, he can pick people out.

“I think Kobbie Mainoo has done really well this season in a struggling Manchester United team, it’s all happened so quickly and I think he has an experienced head for such a young player.

“Is Mainoo ready now? Of course he's not, he's still so young. But sometimes you get thrown into the deep end and you just have to swim. You have to survive and I think he can survive.

Is the current England squad the best ever?

England head into the tournament as favourites and have also been the most backed team to win Euro 2024 by bet365 customers.

Much of the optimism has been down to an array of attacking talent which the majority of teams would be delighted with.

However, there are clear areas of the team where England lack depth and Ince is in no doubt that the current England squad is not the best group of players the country has seen.

"England having their best ever squad? It's nowhere near the case. It's totally ridiculous.

“If you actually go back to the squads of the past, 1990 for example, look at the players that were in that squad, especially in midfield,

“No disrespect intended, but in this squad are the likes of Adam Wharton who has very little experience, Kobbie Mainoo and Declan Rice, in 1990 we had Bryan Robson and Paul Gascoigne.

“In more recent eras you had midfielders like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, these are great, great players.

“This England team, they're not great players. Yes they're young and exciting with a little bit of experience, but to say that this is the best squad that England have ever had is absolutely ridiculous.

“The level of international football for me has dropped which means that England have now got a very good chance."

Euro 2024

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