I al­ready know my 2018 squad, hints South­gate

World Cup se­lec­tion will be youth­ful, says coach Pick­ford now se­ri­ous ri­val to Hart in goal

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football -

CHIEF FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

“I think if we had to pick a 23 to­mor­row, we would know what it is,” South­gate said. “We will con­stantly up­date that. Some of that will be on form but a lot of that will be on the play­ers who we think are ca­pa­ble of per­form­ing on the big­gest stage.”

He added: “I think we would be very close to the 23 in March but there’s ob­vi­ously four or five play­ers per­haps that aren’t with us through in­jury now. So I don’t think it can be as clear-cut as that. But, for sure, I think in our minds we’re get­ting closer. We’ve al­most got a big jig­saw puz­zle now, we know how we want to play, what are the pieces that fit into it, who would be our pre­ferred choices.”

Fol­low­ing Eng­land’s en­cour­ag­ing per­for­mance in the goal­less draw at home to Ger­many, South­gate is also more com­mit­ted than ever to play­ing with three at the back and two strik­ers in a 3-5-2. The al­ter­na­tive is a 3-4-2-1 ap­proach, which would suit Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Adam Lal­lana, none of whom are in this squad.

“I think ev­ery­body saw that sys­tem and what it al­lowed us to do the other night and what it might al­low us to do mov­ing for­ward,” South­gate said. “I like the idea that we can get two for­wards on the pitch. Not so many teams do that these days and it’s not a prob­lem that de­fend­ers have to face so of­ten which can give you some­thing that causes an op­po­si­tion a fresh chal­lenge.”

South­gate is com­mit­ted to youth, with the de­but of 21-year-old Ruben Lof­tus-cheek pos­si­bly even good enough for him to force his way into the World Cup squad. South­gate has also called up three more young play­ers: goal­keeper An­gus Gunn, mid­fielder Lewis Cook and striker Do­minic Solanke from the un­der-21s. “It’s been pleas­ing to see An­gus now play­ing reg­u­lar first-team foot­ball [on loan from Manch­ester City at Nor­wich City], it’s his first sea­son do­ing that,” South­gate said. “With Dom and Lewis, we’re talk­ing about a re­ward, really, for one cap­tain­ing the Un­der-20 World Cup win­ners and the other one the golden boot win­ner. Both have won at Euro­pean un­der-17 level and the World Cup at un­der-20, so their pedi­gree is good and we’re look­ing for­ward to in­te­grat­ing them into the se­niors.”

Changes to the team will be made against Brazil, who South­gate de­scribed as “more dif­fi­cult” op­po­nents than Ger­many. Eng­land will con­sider prac­tis­ing penal­ties af­ter one of the friendlies be­fore they go to Rus­sia – with two warm-up games af­ter March also to come. “That is an op­tion,” South­gate said of plan­ning a way to com­bat the na­tion’s tra­di­tional fail­ing.

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