England will name a “very young line-up” as they look to wrap up Euro 2020 qualification against Montenegro on Thursday, says boss Gareth Southgate.
The Three Lions only need one point from their final two qualifiers.
Thursday’s game at Wembley is England’s 1,000th senior men’s international.
“The line-up against Spain [in October 2018] was one of the youngest for decades and I think we are going to be even younger than that,” said Southgate.
“That obviously has some weaknesses, but it has some enormous strengths as well in terms of the enthusiasm, energy, motivation. And I think it’s a team that will excite people.”
England beat Spain 3-2 in Seville in the Nations League last October, with their youngest starting XI since 1959 – an average age of just over 23.
Half of the 24-man squad for the Montenegro and Kosovo games – with England playing their final qualifier in Pristina on Sunday – are aged 22 or under.
“We are looking forward to the game,” said Southgate. “Not only the opportunity to qualify for a European Championship but the occasion of England’s 1,000th international which is a very special one for everybody associated with the team, now and in the past.
“It’s great that so many of our former players are coming to be a part of that night. That’s very important to all of us, and I know for them it will be something very special. So, we’re especially looking forward to seeing them.”
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Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling has been dropped by Southgate for the Montenegro match after a clash with team-mate Joe Gomez at England’s training camp.
Everton midfielder Fabian Delph has withdrawn from the squad with a hamstring injury.
England will be at home in at least two group games at Euro 2020, with Wembley also hosting the semi-finals and final.
“It would be really special to play in a major tournament and walking out at Wembley would be something that you dream of,” said Manchester United defender Harry Maguire. “People say it would give us a little advantage as well. So, it’s something.
“We know that the crowd get right behind us at Wembley and the support over the last few years – especially since I’ve been playing – has been unbelievable.”
Southgate, who guided England to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, said: “I think what is exciting over the next five years or so is the youth of this squad.
“They are gaining experience all the time in big matches and one or two more players still underneath this group – in terms of age – are going to come in and, I think, be outstanding players for England.
“But, of course, you have to deliver and we’ve had teams with potential and promise forever. These guys went further than nearly all of those teams two years ago.
“I don’t think we were the most experienced or talented group that we’ve had in that 30-year period by any stretch, but they delivered – and that’s huge credit to them.
“Now the challenge is to keep going on and doing that.”
Match stats – 17 in a row for England
- England and Montenegro have met five times, with the Three Lions having won the past two and yet to lose.
- England have won their past six home matches – their best winning run since a run of nine between March 2014 and November 2015.
- Montenegro are winless in their past nine European Championship and World Cup qualifying matches, losing six.
- England have won their past 17 home European Championship and World Cup qualifiers, scoring 55 goals and conceding just six.
- Montenegro have failed to score in their past four Euro 2020 qualifiers, attempting 36 shots across those games.
- Captain Harry Kane has been involved in 10 goals in his past four England appearances (six goals, four assists), scoring a hat-trick in his last appearance at Wembley against Bulgaria. No player has ever scored three goals in consecutive appearances at the national stadium.
- England have scored 27 goals in eight matches in 2019, an average of 3.4 per game, their highest in a calendar year since 1963 (32 in nine games – 3.6). The Three Lions are only one goal behind their tally for 2018 (28 goals) and last scored 30 goals in a calendar year in 1982 (34 goals).
THURSDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 2019