Picking England’s 23-man squad for Euro 2024 after Brazil and Belgium auditions

The biggest choices of who to take and cut come at centre-back and on the wing

Richard Jolly
Wednesday 27 March 2024 14:48 GMT
Related video: England's 26-man squad announced by Gareth Southgate for World Cup

Forty into 23 does not go. Gareth Southgate has called up 40 players for England squads in the last five international breaks.

Most will have some hope of going to Euro 2024 but a sizeable chunk will be disappointed. And if some of them were called up because of a host of injuries, it also means Southgate has experimented more than he may have intended in the March friendlies against Brazil and Belgium. Which, in turn, has allowed some to force their way into contention.

Jordan Pickford will be England’s No 1 but who will be his understudies at Euro 2024? (The FA/Getty)

But if who he will pick when he names his squad on 8 June depends in part on who comes through the end of the season unscathed, who should he choose?


An error against Belgium will not cost Jordan Pickford his status as Southgate’s first choice. In a way, the most pertinent development may have been an injury that could rule Sam Johnstone out for the season.

James Trafford was the immediate beneficiary, getting a first senior call-up. Dean Henderson, set for a run in goal for Crystal Palace, may be a likelier candidate for Euro 2024. Yet with Aaron Ramsdale not playing for Arsenal and Nick Pope due to return for Newcastle in the next few weeks, the case to select the latter should grow. If Pickford is not on the pitch, Pope is by far the best option.

Picks: Pickford, Pope, Ramsdale


Southgate has both described Luke Shaw as one of the world’s best left-backs and admitted that, even if fit, he will not play all seven games, which heightens the question of who deputises; perhaps who starts the tournament in the team. Ben Chilwell played both March games and is the only left-footed option while Kieran Trippier has stood in on that flank before.

Ben Chilwell may start due to Luke Shaw’s injury (The FA/Getty)

The top of the right-back pecking order should be unchanged by the injuries Kyle Walker and Trippier have had, even though Ezri Konsa and Joe Gomez instead played there for much of the Brazil and Belgium games. Reece James’s fitness record means, even if he does return for Chelsea, it would be hard to trust him for a tournament. Trent Alexander-Arnold is seen as more of a midfielder now, but could cover if necessary.

Picks: Shaw, Walker, Trippier, Chilwell


Harry Maguire’s troubled outing against Brazil won’t alter his place in Southgate’s plans while John Stones’ importance was underlined by others’ struggles. Lewis Dunk had a traumatic time in both friendlies and started to look a graduate of the lower leagues promoted beyond his level.

Ezri Konsa made a reasonable start to his international career without making himself impossible to omit. There is a question of if Southgate takes a left-footed centre-back – which, after Jarrad Branthwaite went unused in both March games, presumably means Levi Colwill – but the real beneficiary could be the left-sided Marc Guehi, whose status as the first reserve to Maguire and Stones may have been cemented in his absence.

Joe Gomez could edge out the error-prone Lewis Dunk (Getty)

The spot of the fourth centre-back feels open, but two things should count in Joe Gomez’s favour: an ability to operate across the back four which could be more useful in the event of injuries; and the recovery pace to suit a high defensive line.

Picks: Stones, Maguire, Guehi, Gomez

Centre midfield

If not definitive developments, there may have been three significant shifts in Southgate’s thinking over recent weeks. First came Kalvin Phillips’s omission, and if the England manager would still welcome an in-form Phillips, the chances of that are vanishing.

Then came Kobbie Mainoo’s promotion to the senior squad and a hugely assured full debut against Belgium that suggested that he becomes a mandatory pick. Finally, though, James Maddison’s cameo, complete with an assist, was a reminder of his quality and proof that he can play along with Jude Bellingham.

Jude Belligham will be a key starter for England (The FA/Getty)

If talent cannot be ignored, there has to be a place for Alexander-Arnold and his extraordinary passing. But there is also a need for a more defensive presence, either alongside Declan Rice or to understudy him. It is scarcely Conor Gallagher’s best role and he has done too little to impress, other than run around, and Phillips’s wretched run indicates that the best candidate, while in decline, is still Jordan Henderson.

Picks: Rice, Bellingham, Henderson, Mainoo, Alexander-Arnold, Maddison


The temptation must be to try and squeeze five into the squad; there are so many enticing options. But to pick on a policy of two players for each outfield position means four. Two are automatic choices: Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden, whose Manchester City form means he needs to start and, with the Arsenal man on the right, therefore plays on the left.

That leaves two positions between perhaps five players: Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Anthony Gordon, Jarrod Bowen and Cole Palmer. Perhaps Southgate will go for one experienced performer and one rookie. If so, the decision between Rashford and Grealish should go the Manchester United man’s way: his autumn goal against Italy showed a more recent impact, he is likelier to score and he can double up as the third striker, whereas Grealish has often been a substitute for England, and not always a particularly effective one.

Anthony Gordon is tipped to force his way in (The FA/Getty)

Palmer’s injury, denying him minutes against Brazil and Belgium, was ill-timed. Southgate was effusive in his praise for the debutant Gordon after the defeat to Brazil but Bowen then excelled against Belgium. The choice may come down to whether he wants a left- or right-sided forward more. As Foden could switch to the right if Saka was ruled out, it may be Gordon to operate on the left.

Picks: Saka, Foden, Rashford, Gordon


Ollie Watkins and Ivan Toney both got their audition to act as Harry Kane’s deputy. Go on Premier League form and Watkins would be the easy selection.

Toney’s goal might push him to Kane’s backup (The FA via Getty Images)

Look at the last two England games and Toney’s penalty against Belgium, his link play and his all-round game and the advantage could lie with the Brentford man. It would be horribly harsh on Watkins but Toney seems to slot into England’s style of play more seamlessly.

Picks: Kane, Toney

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