England manager Gareth Southgate has confessed that September’s international break will likely be the final chance players will have to audition for a place in his World Cup squad.
The Three Lions will take on Italy in Milan on September 23 before hosting Germany at Wembley three days later, with Southgate then set to name his final World Cup squad by October 21.
With the global showcase featuring midway through the season, England will not have the chance to reconvene for a full training camp in preparation for the tournament and will instead jet straight from their clubs over to Qatar, leaving September’s fixtures as the last chance for players to earn a spot in the squad.
“We’re not going to get the players together again before the World Cup,” Southgate said to Sky Sports. “You’d normally have around a 28-day training camp and a couple of friendlies leading into a tournament to work with the team.
“This is the last realistic opportunity to do that. When we get together in the winter, we’ll be flying to Qatar and it’ll be a normal one-week prep for a game.
“This is a great opportunity to test ourselves against really top teams. We want to respond to the performances we gave in the summer, and it’s really important for preparation ahead of the World Cup.”
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Southgate also insisted that he was not concerned by some of the surprising trends on show at the start of the current campaign. Star forwards like Jack Grealish, Jarrod Bowen, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling are yet to start firing, while Declan Rice, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw are among the English players to have endured tricky starts to the Premier League season.
“At this time of year, the Premier League table doesn’t settle down for a few weeks and you’ve still got the transfer window open, which causes so much chaos in every club,” the England boss said.
“Things have to settle but we’re perhaps fortunate as the international window normally falls in about a week but we’ve been given more time. It’s nice to have a few more weeks to see how things map out and see where players are physically and fitness-wise.
“There have been some unexpected results, but I think at this time of year that can happen. Things will take on a more familiar look once we get into two games a week across multiple competitions.”