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Jude Bellingham opens up on setting European record

Jude Bellingham opens up on setting European record
© Reuters
The 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund star became the youngest ever player to feature at a European Championship when he played against Croatia.

Jude Bellingham never thought he would be part of the England squad at this point, let alone make history as the youngest ever player to feature at a European Championship.

After bursting onto the scene at Birmingham and flourishing with Borussia Dortmund, the talented 17-year-old was named in Gareth Southgate's 26-strong squad for this summer's rearranged tournament.

Bellingham has shown maturity that belies his tender years and replaced Holland's Jetro Willems as the youngest ever player to grace the Euros when brought off the bench in Sunday's 1-0 win against Croatia.

"It's not bad, to be fair, it's a good record," the England midfielder said after making his major tournament bow aged 17 years and 349 days.

"When you just set your mind on something and you just try and follow it through and manage to do it so buzzing with that, to be fair.

"I just never thought I'd be here, really. If it was when it was supposed to take place last summer, I would have been nowhere near it obviously.

"But I think I've just had a good season, kept my head down and things have kind of just come one after another and I've managed to get here.

"I'm just trying to represent my country well and my family and that."

Bellingham replaced captain Harry Kane with eight minutes remaining at roasting hot Wembley, where he battled on after a knock and faced Croatia star Luka Modric.

"I got a bang to the head as well that really hurt but I was just trying to do my job," he told Lions' Den in the build-up to Friday's clash with Scotland.

"I was thinking 'don't you dare let them get back in the game while you're on the pitch' so every ball that was there to be won, I just tried to go through it and get it back for us.

"(Modric) was probably the highlight for them, he had a really good game. You're watching him from the sideline thinking 'how would I approach it coming against him?'

England teenager Jude Bellingham is preparing for Friday's clash against Scotland
England teenager Jude Bellingham is preparing for Friday's clash against Scotland (Nick Potts/PA)

"In a minute, you're against him and you kind of just have to work it out as you're on the job. I thought I'd done alright so I've just to keep it going."

Bellingham was delighted to step out at "Wembo" in front of his family, having been unable to play with them in the stands in a competitive match for some time due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The 17-year-old's chances to see loved ones have also been impacted by the pandemic during his first year in Germany, but he is loving life at Dortmund.

"To be fair, it was a decision that was quite easy in the end," said Bellingham, who Manchester United had hoped to bring to the club.

"I think if you look at Dortmund's track record with young players and the way they develop them, it was the obvious answer.

"Obviously at the time it's hard to see it like that because you've got so many other options: to stay at Birmingham, etc.

"But my strength of character I'd probably say it comes from my parents and stuff.

"In terms of the decision I made, I had all their support throughout the whole way so I was quite comfortable in making it."

Bellingham's move not only caused ripples because of following compatriot Jadon Sancho to Dortmund but the fact Birmingham retired the teenager's number 22 shirt "to remember one of our own and to inspire others".

"It was a bit of a weird one at first, you know," Bellingham said. "I appreciated the gesture and stuff.

"I know a lot of people didn't agree with it and, you know, in their opinion rightly so.

"But when I look back on my time at Birmingham, I realise I was quite a big role model for the kids in Birmingham and I set quite a few records and stuff.

"If that's the decision they want to take, I'm never going to publicly go against the people at Birmingham who brought me up, so I had to kind of take all the hate and the comments and the memes on the chin! But it's one of them things."

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ChinaChina21131246
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Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events


GOLF
· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

CYCLING - BMX
· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

SWIMMING
· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

TENNIS
· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

SAILING
· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

ARTISTIC GYMNASTICS
· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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