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Jude Bellingham runs the show as England’s superiority shines through against a spirited Scotland

Scotland 1-3 England (Maguire 67′ OG | Foden 32′, Bellingham 35′, Kane 81′)

HAMPDEN — Never mind the battle of Britain, how about a rerun of one of English football‘s longest running culture wars?

Here are the facts: an energetic, imperious England were two up and cruising when Gareth Southgate replaced Marc Guehi with Harry Maguire at half-time. And then it briefly threatened to go a bit awry at a cacophonous Hampden Park, where Maguire’s misfortune was celebrated like a prize scalp by the locals.

Never mind that England’s far superior quality, best summed up by a performance of effortless brilliance by Jude Bellingham, eventually told against a spirited but limited Scotland.

Never mind, either, that it feels distinctly unfair to pin Scotland’s second half mini-revival solely on Southgate’s most loyal defensive foot soldier. Such is the baggage that Maguire now carries into England duty that his unfortunate own goal will accelerate the debate about the wisdom of picking such an undercooked centre-back in high pressure games. As solid as he was for the other 44 minutes, England’s margins for error will be miniscule when playing the heavyweights next summer.

That it became a battle in the second period is a credit to Steve Clarke and his game side, who were outthought, outfought and utterly outplayed for 45 minutes where England looked like Euro 2024 contenders.

When England play like that, it feels like they’ve found a formula to make the most of the obvious talent in their ranks. The debate in the run-up to Hampden had been whether Phil Foden should play through the middle or on the wing but performing like this the answer seems simple: just play him.

A generational talent like him can unlock defences wherever he’s stationed and he caused all sorts of problems for Scotland long before the cutest of finishes from Kyle Walker‘s rasping cross just after the half hour mark.

That was the least England deserved. The ease with which they sprung Scotland’s high press was a joy to behold for the raucous away end, with Marcus Rashford‘s pace and poise a constant menace.

With Bellingham in such inspired form, it felt like it was probably a toss-up between the Tartan Army and James Maddison for who had the worse night. The Tottenham man is a talent for sure, but the effervescence of England’s midfield here probably spells bad news for him.

There is no debate around Bellingham, at least. If England are to do anything in Germany it will surely flow from him. His touch, timing and technique are faultless, the fact he is just 20 years old almost lost in the superlatives. He scored here, the simplest of finishes after Andy Robertson‘s inexplicable hesitation in the penalty area coughed up the ball to him.

For a friendly this was riotous fun. Glasgow heaved in the late summer sun, the mood merry rather than murderous in the run up to kick off. Hampden fizzed as it always does but the wall of noise that a revved up home support created was picked apart by a nimble and inventive England forward line.

In the second half, though, the walls briefly threatened to come in on England. Robertson’s fizzing, hopeful cross-cum-shot cannoned off Maguire and Scotland sensed an opportunity.

The combination of Bellingham and Harry Kane, whose smart finish finished off the hosts, ensured it did not come to that.

A chastening night for Scotland then, but perspective is required. No Euro 2024 hopes were harmed in the making of this battle of Britain, even if Norway’s stroll against Georgia in Oslo means they will have to wait for their ticket to Germany to be stamped.

Make no mistake, they will be there. The Tartan Army will enjoy its first overseas tournament for a quarter of century, drenched in euphoria and whatever else is being served in the bierkellers of Munich, Stuttgart and the rest. But a realignment of ambition and approach is clearly required on the pitch when they are confronted by a team with the gifts England possess.

The way they set out at Hampden suggested they fancied their chances of reprising the roughing up of Spain six months ago, a 2-0 win that represents the high watermark of the Clarke era. The problem is England can look quite a lot better than Spain in spells these days. The trick for Southgate is piecing those moments together, and making sure distractions like the Maguire debate don’t weigh his team down.

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