Toney, Watkins face shoot-out for Euros spot


England’s preparations for Euro 2024 continue with testing friendlies against Belgium and Brazil, and there is still plenty of work for Gareth Southgate to do as he looks to finalise his plans for Germany.

However, the England boss has injuries to key players to contend with – none more so than captain Harry Kane, who Southgate confirmed would miss the game with Brazil on Saturday and is “extremely doubtful” for the fixture with Belgium on Tuesday.

Jordan Henderson and Cole Palmer have also been ruled out of the Brazil game.

Jack Grealish, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luke Shaw, Reece James, Kieran Trippier, Marc Guehi and Callum Wilson are all unavailable for this squad. Bukayo Saka has also withdrawn from the squad.

England’s long injury list in full – the 12 regulars in the treatment room

Sky Sports News chief reporter Rob Dorsett:

“Bukayo Saka is absolutely one of the first-choice XI. Southgate is also without: Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Reece James, Marc Guehi, Levi Colwill, Tyrone Mings, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Callum Wilson, and, of course, Harry Kane.”

It is far from an ideal situation for Southgate, but it does provide an opportunity for players on the fringes of the squad to make their claims and impress.

Most notably, the Brazil and Belgium contests may stage a straight shoot-out between Ivan Toney and Ollie Watkins to make their claims to be Kane’s understudy this summer amid general consensus that there will be a place for only one of them in England’s Euro 2024 squad.

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Gareth Southgate insists he has not given too much thought to the furore over Nike’s decision to tamper with the England flag in the latest shirt.

Speaking about whether he could take both Toney and Watkins to the Euros, Southgate said on Friday: “That is a decision we’ll have to make. Clearly a No9 is a specialist position and they have different attributes. That will depend a little on injury statuses in other positions in the squad and also having players that can play in more than one role.

“Both are aware the opportunity is a big one but they’re both in good form, both have had time with us.

“Ollie has done well in the games he’s played and had a fabulous season for his club. Ivan, since he’s come back into the Brentford team has had the impact we expected him to. They’re two very good players.”

Pressed on which one would start against Brazil, Southgate joked: “Did the Brazil manager give you his team in his press conference?!”

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Follow England’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium on Saturday and Tuesday on the Sky Sports website and app.

You can follow both games with our dedicated live blogs, plus we’ll bring you all the best reaction and analysis after the games.

When is England’s Euro 2024 squad announced?

Southgate is set to name a preliminary England squad for Euro 2024 on Tuesday May 21 – two days after the Premier League season ends.

The size of that squad is not yet confirmed but it is expected to be bigger than the 23-player squad allowed for next summer’s tournament.

The player selected will then have a final chance to impress the England boss with the Three Lions set to play warm-up fixtures against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday June 3 and Iceland on Friday June 6.

England’s final 23-player squad has to be confirmed by Sunday June 8. The tournament starts on Friday June 14 with England’s first game in Germany against Serbia on Saturday June 15.

Saka’s withdrawal is likely to result in Phil Foden starting on the right wing, but should also present Jarrod Bowen and Anthony Gordon, current outsiders to make the squad, with an opportunity to impress.

The same applies to Jarrad Branthwaite and Joe Gomez as well as Manchester United youngster Kobbie Mainoo following his late call-up.

England’s squad to face Brazil and Belgium…

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Man City).

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Ajax), James Maddison (Tottenham), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Kobbie Mainoo (Man Utd).

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Man City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Marcus Rashford (Man United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa).

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Gareth Southgate labelled the recent rumours linking him with the Manchester United managers position as disrespectful, saying the club already has a manager in the role.

Toney vs Watkins shoot-out for Euro 2024 spot?

Sky Sports News’ senior reporter Rob Dorsett:

“It will be between Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney to lead the line for England against Brazil.

“It may well be that there isn’t room for three strikers on the plane to Germany this summer because Southgate can only name a squad of 23 players for the Euros.

“Can he fit three strikers into his squad? He hinted maybe that isn’t possible with only one spot available as back-up to Kane.

“Watkins is flying for Aston Villa right now. It’s the best season of his career with 22 goals and 10 assists this season in all competitions. He offers something a little bit different to Harry Kane and Ivan Toney. He’s not a traditional target man because he’s more mobile and finds the space. He’s also a great finisher.

“For Toney, he missed a huge chunk of the season because of the ban from the FA for breaching betting rules.

“So, this could be a huge opportunity for Toney and or Watkins to stake a claim. It could be a straight shoot-out.”

Merson: Southgate should test Branthwaite in friendlies

Jarrod Branthwaite
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Jarrod Branthwaite and Anthony Gordon were named in the England squad for the first time

Former England international Paul Merson believes the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium are the perfect chance to test one of the new faces in England’s squad.

“Jarrad Branthwaite has to play in both games to see where he’s at. At Everton, they play on the edge of their own box. Head it, block it, kick it away. They’re under the cosh for 75 per cent of the games you’re in.

“With England, you’re playing on the halfway line and dominating matches but against Brazil and Belgium you’re playing up against players who are electric and running in behind. How do you cope with it? These two good teams will come and have a go at England. He deserves to be in, he’s done well, but now we’ve got to see where he’s at.

“I know what Jordan Pickford can do, so we need a different goalkeeper to play the next two games just in case he gets injured. Aaron Ramsdale should play in both because he’s not going to play a lot of football between now and the end of the season.”

Merse oozing confidence over England tournament win

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“England win the Euros. I’ll be shocked, amazed, if we didn’t win it.

“Who can beat us? Maybe France. But when we played last time it was a close game with Harry Kane missing a penalty. If he scored that, there would have been only one winner.

“Germany? No. Portugal? No, they’re an ageing team.

“England have had a huge amount of experience with ups and downs. They’re ready.

“No team can live with England over a month of football. We’ll have players on the bench that would walk into any other team. I couldn’t name a European national team that the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish wouldn’t walk into.

“If I could pick players from across Europe to put in England’s team, I’m only picking Kylian Mbappe and Virgil van Dijk.”

Mainoo eyeing Euro 2024 spot after England call-up

Kobbie Mainoo
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Kobbie Mainoo received his first senior England call-up

Kobbie Mainoo says a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad is the end goal after the Manchester United teenager’s whirlwind rise continued with a first senior call-up.

“It’s been a pretty mad couple of days,” Mainoo said. “Getting down here and realising that I was with the first team was amazing. I was shocked and happy and it’s been a whirlwind of emotions.”

Making his England debut is the next target as he tries to prove to Southgate that he is worthy of a place in Germany.

“Yeah, I think that’s the end goal for the season, to get into that squad,” Mainoo added. “But obviously I’ve got to focus on club football in the meantime, and hopefully that’ll figure itself out.”

Could Mainoo solve England’s midfield problem?

Wataru Endo and Kobbie Mainoo battle for the ball
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Wataru Endo and Mainoo battle for the ball

Sky Sports’ Zinny Boswell:

“Kobbie Mainoo has shown for Man Utd this season that he’s adept at playing in a holding role and as a box-to-box midfielder, but his best performances have come in those deeper positions. That suits England’s needs.

“Jude Bellingham has thrived as a No 10 for Real Madrid, with his 20 goals this season making him the most prolific midfielder in Europe. Declan Rice, meanwhile, has been best for Arsenal when given freedom to roam.

“It is the No 6 role which England have struggled to fill over the years. The problem dates back to the days of trying to fit Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes into the same midfield.

“Gareth Southgate’s most awkward issue is not having the chance to test out the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield against top opposition before the Euros. This would’ve been the perfect opportunity and he would undoubtedly be his first choice.

“Perhaps now the door opens for Mainoo. The England manager appears to be in two minds about throwing the 18-year-old straight in, although his showing at Old Trafford on Sunday seems to have eased some of those concerns.

“Southgate considering Mainoo as a starter at the Euros seems like a long shot, though, despite the clamour for him to complete a midfield three of himself, Rice and Bellingham.

“The next two weeks are a chance for the Man Utd midfielder to make his case. If he continues to play this well, then it won’t be long before he is a starter for England.”

Brazil team news…

Brazil are in London without experienced stars like Neymar, Gabriel Martinelli, Casemiro, Alisson Becker, Ederson, Marquinhos and Gabriel because of injury.

There will be a debutant in goal for the visitors with Bento, Rafael and Leo Jardim all uncapped options in the squad. There’ll also be inexperience in defence with Juventus pair Danilo and Gleison Bremer the only players with any real international experience.

However, the visitors will be a threat in attack at Wembley. Real Madrid duo Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo are set to feature, while Tottenham’s Richarlison could reach 50 caps for his country in upcoming friendly games against England and Spain. He faces competition from teenager Endrick, who is searching for his first goal for his country.

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Richarlison has issued a cheeky warning to Tottenham team-mate James Maddison as Brazil and England prepare to face each other in a friendly at Wembley

Follow England on Sky Sports’ digital platforms

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Follow England‘s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium on Saturday and Tuesday on the Sky Sports website and app.

You can follow both games in our dedicated live match blogs, plus we’ll bring you all the best reaction and analysis after the games.

England’s fixtures before Euro 2024

Saturday March 23: England vs Brazil – kick-off 7pm

Tuesday March 26: England vs Belgium – kick-off 7.45pm

Monday June 3: England vs Bosnia and Herzegovina – kick-off 7.45pm

Friday June 7: England vs Iceland – kick-off 7.45pm

Euro 2024 key dates

Remaining qualifying dates
March 26, 2024: play-off finals

Final tournament
June 14, 2024: Euro 2024 opening game, Allianz Arena (Munich)
June 30 – July 2: Round of 16
July 5-6: Quarter-finals
July 9-10, 2024: Semi-finals
July 14, 2024: Euro 2024 final, Olympiastadion (Berlin)

England’s Euro 2024 fixtures

Sunday June 16 – Group C: Serbia vs England (Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen – kick-off 8pm UK time)

Thursday June 20 – Group C: Denmark vs England (Waldstadion, Frankfurt – kick-off 5pm UK time)

Tuesday June 25 – Group C: England vs Slovenia (RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne – kick-off 8pm UK time)

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