REUTERS - England manager Gareth Southgate said he is prepared to offer more young players the chance to stake a claim for a World Cup place in Tuesday’s friendly against Brazil at Wembley.
Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford received rave reviews after making their first England starts against Germany last Friday.
Tammy Abraham, Jack Cork and Joe Gomez also made their debuts and Southgate has added Manchester City goalkeeper Angus Gunn, Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook and Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke to his squad for Brazil.
In part, their promotion is reward for their success with England’s junior sides — Solanke scored for England Under-21s last week — but, ahead of next year’s World Cup finals, Southgate is clearly looking to new talent to counter decades of failure by the country’s senior sides.
“We have to see how the game progresses but we won’t have any inhibitions about putting them on the pitch,” said Southgate. “We want players who have good international pedigree to have their pathway.
“If I had to pick the squad tomorrow, I know who it would be, but that can change in six months because of form and players emerging. I’m open-minded.”
England’s junior sides have prospered internationally with the Under-17s and Under-20s both winning World Cups this year and the Under-18s and Under-21s also producing standout performances.
But Southgate will be wary of expecting too much, too soon from his young stars and may choose not to use his latest recruits against a Brazil side he was quick to praise.
“Brazil are well down the road in knowing their best team, they have some outstanding individuals and an immense physical presence,” he said.
“They’ve annihilated everyone in the South American qualification which is the hardest way to the finals, so it will be a big test.
“You always want to test yourselves against the best. Germany are a well-oiled machine, you know where they’re going to be. Brazil have fantastic individuals and that’s harder to prepare for.”
Asked what he most appreciated about the 0-0 draw with Germany, which proved more exciting than the scoreline suggests, Southgate said the “fearlessness” and highlighted the performance of Chelsea loanee Loftus-Cheek.
“He’s obviously taken a lot from the game. He found it a great experience. He was learning throughout it,” said Southgate.
“It’s incredible - he’s had so few 90-minute appearances in the league and we put him in but he did well and we believe in him. Sometimes the first game is easier then you have to carry it on.”
Southgate added that Tottenham’s Eric Dier will again captain the side. “For me as a coach, he’s good when you want to have discussions about solving tactical problems on the pitch. He’s somebody who’s upbringing at Lisbon was different from some young players,” he said.
Against him will be Neymar, who Southgate singled out to be an obvious threat. “He is one of the best players in the world. Is he worth 200 million pounds ($262 million)? If there was to be someone worth that - it’d be him.”
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Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge