Forward thinking. England drop Rashford from Euro 2024 squad

May 22 – Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford was the most controversial omission when England manager Gareth Southgate named his provisional squad of 33 for the European Championship.

Rashford, who has won 60 caps, paid the price for a disappointing season at club level and failed to make the cut along with Jordan Henderson and Reece James, both of whom have been hit hard by injury.

Southgate admitted it was “difficult” to omit Rashford and Henderson as he now contemplates the even tougher decision over who else will be left out when the squad is cut to 26 players in early June.

England’s problem is that while they have an abundance of outstanding forward players, they have very few experienced, reliable contenders at the back. But you can’t just pick forwards to maintain balance so some of the former will inevitably join Rashford on the sidelines when the final squad is announced.

“These are, of course, difficult calls,” said Southgate. “You are talking about players that are very good players and who have been an important part of what we have done over a number of years. With Marcus, I just feel that other players in that area have had better seasons. It is as simple as that.”

Henderson has remained a part of England’s set up despite his controversial decision to move to Saudi Arabia where he stayed for just six months before completing a move to Ajax where he picked up a muscle injury.

“Hendo has missed five weeks and just hasn’t been able to get to the intensity in the games since then,” said Southgate. “He’s a fantastic professional. That was a really difficult call to make because he has been so important, so supportive in my time here. This has been as complicated a group as I can remember picking. There’s a lot to think about over the next couple of weeks.”

Eric Dier was another who missed out despite the centre-back impressing for Bayern Munich where he has been a regular since joining in January and helping them reach the Champions League semi-finals.

Given England’s notorious weakness in defence, it made sense to recall Dier but he has been overlooked.

“He has played very well for Bayern and I know that they are very, very happy with him. We think he is just behind the other guys we have selected,” explained Southgate somewhat spuriously.

“We watch every game. He had obviously played well in some big matches in the Champions League as well, so [we were] conscious of that. But we have assessed all of that right across the board.”

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), James Trafford (Burnley)

Defenders: Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Jarell Quansah (Liverpool), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Curtis Jones (Liverpool), Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), Declan Rice (Arsenal), Adam Wharton (Crystal Palace)

Forwards: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle United), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham), Cole Palmer (Chelsea), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)

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