The 2018 World Cup in Russia begins on 14 June and England coach Gareth Southgate has named his 23 squad. Given that English players are a minority in the Premier League, Southgate’s pool of players doesn’t leave room for surprises.
Maybe the biggest news is the inclusion of uncapped 19-year-old Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, although his form in recent months suggested that he was both a deserving candidate and a name for the future. In terms of the older guard, Chelsea defender Gary Cahill has been recalled. There are also places call-ups for Chelsea team-mate Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Fairly predictably, goalkeeper Joe Hart and midfielder Jack Wilshere have been left out, along with left-back Ryan Bertrand. Thanks to his untimely injury, Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana is one of five players on standby for the tournament, along with Burnley keeper Tom Heaton, Clarets defender James Tarkowski, Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook and fellow midfielder Jake Livermore of West Brom.
In the press conference to announce his squad, Southgate was optimistic and said he was happy with his squad: “I believe this is a squad we can be excited about. 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.”
The Full England Squad for Russia 2018
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), 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), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Players on standby: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jake Livermore (West Brom), James Tarkowski (Burnley)
Alexander-Arnold’s call-up is his first for the England senior team and follows the right-back’s form in his breakthrough season at Liverpool. The England Under-21 international has played 33 times for Liverpool this season, including nine appearances in their run to the Champions League final.
“The first call-up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved,” Southgate said. “When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.”
In terms of those who missed out, Joe Hart has won 75 caps and was England’s first-choice goalkeeper at the past three major tournaments but has had a poor season, conceding 39 goals in 19 Premier League games on loan at West Ham. Burnley’s Nick Pope was preferred to Hart as the number 3 goalkeeper, joining Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford, while his team-mate Tom Heaton is selected as the goalkeeper on the standby list, despite not playing since September because of injury.
Perhaps a little surprising given the season he’s had, Chelsea centre-back Cahill returns to the England squad. He was left out of England’s most recent squad for the friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy in March. Before that, the 32-year-old was an unused substitute in friendlies against Brazil and Germany, plus the final World Cup qualifier against Lithuania. He is the most-capped player in the squad with 58 and is the only player to have made more than 40 appearances for England. Cahill was preferred to fellow centre-back Chris Smalling despite the 28-year-old playing 45 times for Manchester United this season.
Thankfully, nobody seriously gives England a chance of winning in Russia, so at least we’re going to be spared acres of newsprint exaggerating their prospects and the inevitable follow-up end of the world obituary for English football. Let’s just hope they play well and don’t get made to look out of place.