Neville waits on Eriksson's call for Portugal

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Phil Neville may be used to the waiting game but it will not make today any easier. Every time the telephone rings he will be thinking: "Is it Eriksson? Have I been left out again?"

Phil Neville may be used to the waiting game but it will not make today any easier. Every time the telephone rings he will be thinking: "Is it Eriksson? Have I been left out again?"

The Manchester United player is one of the few members of the England set-up unsure as to whether he will be included in the squad for Euro 2004, which will be announced by Sven Goran Eriksson at 2pm at London's Café Royale.

Neville has been here before. He was chosen for the 1996 and 2000 European Championship squads, by Terry Venables and Kevin Keegan respectively. He was omitted from the intervening World Cups, by Glenn Hoddle and Eriksson. In 1998 he was one of the players told at La Manga, and spent the journey back to England trying to console a distraught Paul Gascoigne. In 2002 he missed out despite his brother, Gary, being injured.

This time injuries may secure his place. The one area in the team where Eriksson has problems is at centre-back. With Rio Ferdinand suspended, Jonathan Woodgate injured and Gareth Southgate unlikely to be fit in time, the England coach has been casting around.

Jamie Carragher has suddenly emerged as possible cover. Since Carragher usually plays at full-back, a specialist right-back would be less urgent. So Danny Mills, who also had in his favour the ability to play in the centre, loses value compared to Phil Neville, who can double up as Nicky Butt's understudy in the midfield holding role, where he has spent much of the season for United.

So that's sorted then. Ah, but Tottenham's Ledley King, who is likely to come into the squad but has very little international experience, can also play in the holding position. Another factor is that, with Steve McClaren's return to the fold, Middlesbrough's Ugo Ehiogu is back in contention, while Anthony Gardner, also of Spurs, remains in Eriksson's thoughts.

These are the questions Eriksson has been debating over the weekend. It may seem odd to spend so much time pondering the fringe candidates but that is always the way with squads, and the experience of 2002, when Trevor Sinclair emerged as a key player despite not being included in the original 23, underlines the potential value of last-minute thoughts.

The other areas of debate are third goalkeeper, eighth midfielder and reserve strikers. In goal, Ian Walker is likely to edge out Norwich City's Robert Green because of his greater experience. The long-term choice would be to take the 24-year-old Green and keep Walker, 32, on stand-by, as injured goalkeepers can be replaced.

Joe Cole's recent form should secure the final midfield slot ahead of Jermaine Jenas, Scott Parker and Danny Murphy, while in attack Darius Vassell, if fit, and Emile Heskey, are expected to edge out Jermain Defoe and Alan Smith.

There may, though, be a surprise. No one expected Eriksson to select Martin Keown two years ago. Should players be injured in the FA Cup final, England's international with Japan on 1 June, or training, replacements can be named before the squad is formally passed to the European game's governing body, Uefa, on 2 June. No players are expected to be named as stand-bys but some will be advised to stay fit and available.

England's campaign will open against France on 13 June and, yesterday, Thierry Henry delivered a warning leavened with praise. Arsenal's Champions' League exit and gentle domestic run-in has enabled him to recharge ahead of Euro 2004. This, he said, was a contrast to the last World Cup in which France were knocked out in the first round.

"I went to the World Cup with a knee injury," said Henry. "I didn't play any of the two weeks of preparation we had. When I played Senegal I wasn't at my best.

"There were so many things," he recalled. "The World Cup started two weeks earlier than normal and for players that went a long way in the Champions' League or were fighting for their titles it was difficult.

"Zinedine Zidane had just played the Champions' League final. He arrived with us five days after that match with a thigh injury. When you're human beings it's impossible to keep playing sometimes. This time we're all better. I can't say that in the last four weeks I've really been pushing too hard.

"But you shouldn't talk about us being fit being bad for England. You have a good squad with good players. I know, I play against them all in the season, except for David Beckham. You have nothing to be scared of. The game will be 11 against 11 on that day in Lisbon. If we don't win Euro 2004, I would like England to win it."

SURPRISE INS AND OUTS OF PREVIOUS ENGLAND SQUADS

1996 European Championship (Manager: Terry Venables)

Surprise inclusions: Nick Barmby, Jamie Redknapp, Steve Howey, Robbie Fowler

Missed the cut: Peter Beardsley, Rob Lee, Ugo Ehiogu, Jason Wilcox, Dennis Wise

1998 World Cup (Glenn Hoddle)

Surprise inclusions: Les Ferdinand, Rio Ferdinand

Missed the cut: Ian Walker, Paul Gascoigne, Phil Neville, Dion Dublin, Nicky Butt, Andy Cole

2000 European Championship (Kevin Keegan)

Surprise inclusions: Gareth Barry, Nick Barmby, Steven Gerrard

Missed the cut: Andy Cole, Kieron Dyer, Rio Ferdinand

2002 World Cup (Eriksson)

Surprise inclusion: Martin Keown

Missed the cut: *Danny Murphy, *Trevor Sinclair, Frank Lampard, Steve McManaman, Ray Parlour, Andy Cole, Phil Neville

*Murphy later called up, then replaced by Sinclair

PROBABLE ENGLAND SQUAD

James, Robinson, Walker; G Neville, P Neville, A Cole, Bridge, Campbell, Terry, King, Carragher; Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Scholes, Butt, Dyer, Hargreaves, J Cole; Owen, Rooney, Vassell, Heskey.

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