The English national team have named their provisional squad for the 2016 European Championships.
During a press conference at Wembley Stadium on Monday, Roy Hodgson has named a 26-man squad which will be cut down to 23 for the tournament this summer in France.
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The big storylines to come out of the squad announcement is that 18-year-old Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford has been included, while Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson have shaken off injuries to make the provisional squad.
Speaking of Rashford’s inclusion in a five-man forward pool, Hodgson revealed he has high hopes for the teenager but warned of the challenge ahead for him to get into the final squad.
“He is one of the contenders, of course. The competition for him is quite strong. He will understand that as well,” Hodgson said. “He deserves to be selected in this larger squad and it will be very interesting to see what he can do. We may only get a chance to see that for one week. I am pleased that someone who has had such an outstanding end to the season and he is a young player who I think has a future if he continues to progress the way he has.”
Rashford is yet to win an England cap but has scored seven goals in 17 games since bursting onto the scene for Manchester United in the second half of the season.
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His United teammate Wayne Rooney is England’s captain but Hodgson didn’t commit to whether or not he would be starting against Russia on June 11 in Marseille. He also confirmed that it was a tough decision to leave out Phil Jagielka, Michael Carrick and Leighton Baines and he spoke to all three before making the official announcement.
Hodgson has only selected three center backs, with Tottenham’s Eric Dier listed as a midfielder but he could also slot in at center back if needed.
Asked about his hopes for this summer with this squad, Hodgson was optimistic that his team could provide England with its first major trophy since the World Cup in 1966.
“I’d like to think this squad, with the youth it contains, will have a long future. It is a start in some respects. Whenever you go to a tournament you have to go there with the desire and hope that you’re going to win it,” Hodgson said. “If you were to ask the bulk of the 24 teams taking part, I don’t think you’d find many who will say ‘we are going to make up the numbers and we don’t think we have any chance of doing well.’ They will say, ‘well, it”s happened in the past, nobody expected Denmark in 1992, nobody expected Greece to win a Euros as well, nobody expected Leicester to win the league.’
“Everybody has got to have that hope, everybody has got to have that dream, everyone has go to have that thought in their minds of, who knows? If we really play well, if we really produce our best and play the type of football we can produce, who knows where it will lead us.”
Hodgson revealed he plans to finalize his 23-man squad following England’s friendly against Australia on May 27. The deadline to name his final squad is May 31 and England have three friendlies coming up in the next few weeks against Turkey on May 22, Australia on May 27 and Portugal on June 2. Players from Manchester United and Liverpool will not be available for the opening game due to their involvement in the FA Cup and Europa League final.
On the face of things it seems like Rashford could well miss out on the final squad, while two midfielders from the 11 selected will also be included in the three men who don’t make it. Fabian Delph and Andros Townsend seem to be the two most likely to miss out, but if either Wilshere or Henderson struggle to return to full fitness after injuries then Hodgson will have to think long and hard about putting them on the plane to France.
England have been drawn in Group B this summer alongside Russia, Wales and Slovakia, as they last reached the semifinals of the European Championships in 1996. A year before Rashford was born…
Here’s the 26-man provisional squad in full.
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), John Stones (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Newcastle United), Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ross Barkley (Everton)