ENGLAND host Germany on November 10 and Brazil on November 14 in international friendlies at Wembley ahead of the 2018 World Cup Finals with manager Gareth Southgate throwing down the Gauntlet.
“I don’t think anybody can sit back and safely think they’re going to be involved next summer,” warned Southgate.
“In every position there’s really strong competition,” said Southgate, who has brought in Joe Gomez, Tammy Abraham and Ruben Loftus Cheek.
Southgate has left out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe, Chris Smalling, Jake Livermore, Fraser Forster and Aaron Cresswell.
Reining World champions Germany, world cup winners four times, and five-time World Cup winners Brazil are arguably England’s toughest duo they could face as an indicator to their 2018 World Cup hopes.
It will be a real test of steel and nerves against Joachim Low’s Germany – cruising to qualification from Group C – with nine wins out of nine.
Brazil are likely to field their strongest side, including stars Philippe Coutinho, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, as they prepare for Russia, in a bid to clinch their sixth World Cup success.
Southgate will finalise the England squad – after friendlies against Germany and Brazil and games against Holland in Amsterdam on March 23, and against Italy at Wembley on March 27.
“If I had to pick a squad tomorrow I know who I’d take. Over the next six months that could evolve drastically,” said Southgate.
Phil Jones, John Stones and Gary Cahill are key defensive players and Southgate believes Jones, 25, is the best defender England have in their locker.
“Not just this season, but there was a long period in the middle of last season where Phil Jones has been the best defender,” Southgate said of the Manchester United star.
“Phil has had great experiences – with both club and country – he organises and competes well and it’s clear what he brings to the team,” said Southgate.
England squad for the friendlies against Germany and Brazil: Tammy Abraham (Swansea City, loan from Chelsea), Dele Alli (Spurs), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Jack Butland (Stoke), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Spurs), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Joe Hart (West Ham, loan from Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool). Phil Jones (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Spurs), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace, loan from Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United). Danny Rose (Spurs), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Spurs), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Harry Winks (Spurs), Ashley Young (Manchester United). *Northern Ireland play Switzerland in their first leg play-off on today, with the return second leg in Basel on November 12, in their quest to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
F1: Lewis hams it up
LEWIS HAMILTON heads to Brazil on November 12 having won his fourth Formula 1 World Championship in Mexico last month.
“This year was a massive challenge I was looking forward to,” said Hamilton, ahead of the penultimate race at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, São Paulo, Brazil.
Mercedes driver Hamilton, who has won three titles in four years, joins Sebastian Vettel, Alain Prost, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to have won at least four F1 titles.