REUTERS - Tottenham Hotspur forward Dele Alli has been named in England’s 26-man squad for their final two World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Lithuania in October, despite uncertainty over his availability for both matches.
Alli is under investigation by FIFA for making an obscene gesture during England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia at Wembley last month and a lengthy ban would exclude him from both qualifiers.
Manager Gareth Southgate said that Alli’s inclusion could backfire for England but remains hopeful that the 21-year-old will be available for the upcoming fixtures.
“We have not heard anything at the moment from FIFA on Dele Alli. We run the risk of being a shambles because he might have to be withdrawn. We hope common sense prevails,” Southgate told reporters on Thursday.
“I have had a good chat with Dele... He recognises the responsibility and we still have to qualify. We hope to have him available.”
Southgate praised Alli’s Tottenham team mate Harry Kane, with the striker scoring five goals in his last four appearances for England.
“I don’t know a better finisher at the moment. He has a real hunger and wants to be the best player in the world. Some do not have the commitment with their lifestyle, but he does. You want players who want to be the best,” Southgate added.
Fellow striker Jamie Vardy was not included in the squad as he recovers from a hip injury and Southgate said that the 30-year-old had been playing through pain and would benefit from a rest during the two-week international break.
Manchester City midfielder Fabian Delph, who last played for England in November 2015, was handed a surprise recall and is joined by Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who replaces Burnley’s Tom Heaton.
England lead Group F on 20 points, five points ahead of second-placed Slovakia, and are one win away from sealing their spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (West Ham United), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Chris Smailling (Manchester United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Jake Livermore (West Bromwich Albion), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Forwards: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jermain Defoe (Bournemouth), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis