England boss Gareth Southgate pleased with balance of youthful World Cup squad
The likes of teenage defender Trent Alexander-Arnold were given the nod over more experienced campaigners.
Gareth Southgate hailed the balance available to him as England manager after selecting a number of inexperienced players in his World Cup squad.
Uncapped Trent Alexander-Arnold was celebrating a maiden senior call-up on Wednesday afternoon as Adam Lallana, Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere all missed out.
After months of speculation, scrutiny and conjecture, the 23 men charged with bringing the country success in Russia were revealed by the Football Association in a unique video including young people from up and down the country.
While Lallana is the most notable omission despite recent injury woes, uncapped Reds team-mate Alexander-Arnold is the most striking inclusion.
An impressive performer in Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, the 19-year-old briefly trained with Southgate’s side in March and has now been named in the senior squad for the first time.
Meanwhile, England’s three keepers for Russia 2018 – Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and the uncapped Nick Pope – have won just nine caps between them, while midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek has made just two Three Lions appearances.
“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” Southgate said.
“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.
“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.
“The selection process has been over months really, it’s not just been the last few weeks. We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.
“The first call-up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it’s not just because they are young, it’s because their performances deserve it.”
Alexander-Arnold revealed he had been informed of his inclusion by Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp as he prepared for a training camp in Spain.
“I found out this morning, just before we came out to Marbella,” he told the club’s official website.
“The manager came and spoke to me just as we were getting on the plane.
“I’m honoured, excited and feeling really proud." 🙌— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 16, 2018
Trent Alexander-Arnold on his England World Cup finals call and his gratitude to those at #LFC who've helped him along the way.
➡️ https://t.co/pH0AIJewn9 pic.twitter.com/h9CgBC5t6z
“He asked me if I knew anything about the squad or anything yet. I said, ‘no’ and he said, ‘Have you got anything planned around the time of the World Cup?’. I was like, ‘No, no holidays or anything…’.
“He said to me, ‘OK, good… You’re in the squad!’. It was a really proud moment. On England’s behalf, it was nice of them to let the manager tell me.”
Southgate has made 12 changes to the squad that floundered at Euro 2016, underlining his desire to build a group capable of providing long-term success – even if that means more experienced players missing out.
He will address the media on Thursday, when he is also likely to be pushed on the decision to include Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and Chelsea defender Gary Cahill – while leaving the likes of Wilshere and Hart at home.
England have warm-up friendlies against Nigeria at Wembley on June 2 and Costa Rica in Leeds on June 7, with the Group G opener against Tunisia on June 18.