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Southgate puts faith in youth with World Cup squad announcement

Only in 2006 and 1958 have England gone into a World Cup with a younger squad.

England will go into this summer’s World Cup with one of their youngest ever major tournament squads – and with an eye-catching lack of experience in goal.

Gareth Southgate’s 23-man group was announced on Wednesday, with an average age of 26 years and 18 days making it the third-youngest squad to represent England at a World Cup.

The situation is particularly noticeable when it comes to England’s last line of defence, where Joe Hart’s omission leaves 25-year-old Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, 24, and uncapped 26-year-old Nick Pope who have made only nine international appearances between them.

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Average caps for England's World Cup goalkeepers this century

There are warm-up games against Nigeria and Costa Rica for the trio to add to that tally, but their current total does not even match the average caps among England’s trio of keepers at any other tournament this century.

Even at Euro 2004, when the goalkeepers averaged 11 caps and first-choice David James had just 24 to his name, back-ups Paul Robinson and Ian Walker went into the tournament with nine caps between them. Hart had 22 caps and Rob Green 12 going into Euro 2012, with Butland then uncapped.

In the World Cups of 2002 and 2010 England’s starting keeper had at least a half-century of caps, while Hart had 41 going into the 2014 tournament and James had 34 to Robinson’s 21 in 2006. The European Championships of 2000 and 2016 saw David Seaman and Hart respectively in the 50s.

The surprise selection of Liverpool’s 19-year-old full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, helped bring down the average age of this year’s party – only in 2006 and 1958 have England gone into a World Cup with a younger squad.

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England World Cup squad: average age

Marcus Rashford’s established presence in the squad belies the fact he will not turn 21 until next season while Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are just 22, Raheem Sterling is 23 and Eric Dier, John Stones and Jordan Pickford are 24.

The 1958 squad had an average age of 25 years and 81 days, with half of the 22 players aged 23 or younger, while in 2006 the average age was 25 years and 286 days after shock call-up Theo Walcott went into the tournament aged 17 years and 85 days.

The Euro 2016 squad, with Rashford still 18 and Alli having turned 20 only around two months before the tournament, was also slightly younger than Southgate’s selection this time around at 25 and 307 days, making 2018 England’s fourth-youngest squad for any major tournament.

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England World Cup squad: past experience

Gary Cahill’s seven appearances at major tournaments – four at Euro 2016 and three in the previous World Cup – are the most for any player in Southgate’s group after Hart, with his 10 tournament appearances, was jettisoned.

Danny Welbeck is surprisingly second in that list, matching Sterling for six appearances but with more time on the pitch.

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