A young England team with virtually no international experience in goal has been named by manager Gareth Southgate
for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Southgate included five standby
players in addition to a 23-man roster released Wednesday. Nearly three weeks remain until the June 4 deadline for the final list to be submitted to FIFA.
The squad with an average age of
26 is the third-youngest team ever selected by England for a World Cup. Poor season costs
Among the notable omissions is goalkeeper Joe Hart
, capped 75 times and the starter when qualifying commenced, but tainted by a poor season at West Ham. Southgate instead opted
for Jordan Pickford
(Everton), Jack Butland
(Stoke City), and Nick Pope
(Burnley). Pickford and Butland have only nine caps combined, and Pope is one of two uncapped players
"With Joe, we've got three other goalkeepers who have had very good seasons and the decision I was faced with was do I keep Joe in and have experience around the group,”
said Southgate on the England FA’s official Web site. “Or give the three guys who have basically had a better season a chance? We felt the players all needed to be in on merit after
their performances this season.”
The most-capped player on the list is Chelsea defender Gary Cahill
(58), who struggled to hold down a regular spot as the Blues finished
fifth. Danny Welbeck
has scored the most goals (15), but the go-to man will be Spurs’ striker Harry Kane
, who has netted 12 goals in his 23 international appearances and this past
season scored 30 Premier League goals to finish second behind Mohamed Salah
Southgate also has the two men who finished fourth and fifth in the Golden Boot race. Jamie
netted 20 and Raheem Sterling
bagged 18. At the international level, Vardy’s seven goals (21 caps) is tied for third with Ashley Young
behind Welbeck and Kane. Uncapped Alexander-Arnold gets call.
Young is one of several
wingbacks/outside backs named by Southgate, who has used both three-man and four-man back lines. Also named is 19-year-old Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold
, who has never been called
up by England but performed so impressively this past season for Liverpool that Southgate included him.
The manager’s options in midfield are severely impaired by the serious knee
injury suffered by Alec Oxlade-Chamberlain
against Roma in the Champions League. He is not expected to return until November. Southgate elected not to include Jack Wilshere
own injury misfortunes certainly played a role in the manager’s decision – and Adam Lallana
, also slowed by injuries this season and one of those five named to the standby list. Eric Dier
and Jordan Henderson
will be the midfield linchpins, with a variety of choices out wide: Sterling, Marcus Rashford
and Jesse Lingard
. Henderson is the
second most-capped player after Cahill with 38 appearances. Kane’s Tottenham teammate Dele Alli
is battling to get back into the starting lineup and could do just that when Southgate
plays a more aggressive lineup, as he’s expected to do in the first two group matches against Tunisia and Panama. England finishes Group G play against Belgium. Questions at centerback.
The toughest choices for Southgate will probably be in defense, where none of the traditional centerbacks – Cahill,
, John Stones
– enjoyed stellar club campaigns. Right back Kyle Walker
has been used centrally; he’s one of several players Southgate can move around to get
the right mix of balance and cohesion.
“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” said Southgate. “We have a lot of energy and athleticism in the team,
but players that are equally comfortable in possession of the ball and I think people can see the style of play we’ve been looking to develop. It is a young group, but with some really important
senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance.” Tuneups.
England plays warm-up games against Nigeria June 2 and Costa Rica June 7 before traveling to Russia. England Roster (23 players): GOALKEEPERS:
Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley). DEFENDERS:
(Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran
Trippier (Tottenham), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United). MIDFIELDERS:
Dele Alli (Tottenham), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse
Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea). FORWARDS:
Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester
City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).