The latest international break was a mixed one for the England Under-21s.
With the under-21 European Championships just around the corner, the Young Lions played two friendlies.
They face France and came away with an emphatic 4-0 victory before Croatia put a swift end to their celebrations, as they fell to a 2-1 home defeat.
However, several players impressed and improved their chances of breaking into the senior team. Euro 2024 is around 16 months away, and these youngsters will have their eyes on the tournament.
Here are five players we believe could make their way into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the next major tournament.
One of the concerns for Southgate is the age of his centre-backs. From his current squad, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Eric Dier will all be in their 30s by the time Euro 2024 begins. It could be a good time to begin integrating someone younger.
Marc Guehi is seemingly the manager’s preferred choice. But if he needs an alternative, Levi Colwill could be the next in line.
The Chelsea man, who is on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion, has started to make regular appearances at the highest level. He has featured 13 times in all competitions this season, contributing to six clean sheets.
When the latest senior squad was announced, one of the most commonly asked questions was: “how on Earth have Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson been selected???????”
Well, a lot of it comes down to Southgate’s system – he likes to use another runner to play alongside Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham in midfield. And, given that there aren’t many other top-quality options, Phillips and Henderson retain their places.
Oliver Skipp may provide the different option that Southgate has been looking for. Since the injury to Rodrigo Bentancur, the Englishman has been playing a lot more regularly for Tottenham Hotspur
If he can perform to his best, he may be able to work his way into the squad.
Jude Bellingham is one of the most exciting young players in the world. Aged just 19, it seems as if he offers everything you could possibly need in a midfielder. There aren’t many other players like him.
That last sentence is both a gift and a curse to England. He’s unique, but they’ll struggle to replace him should he get injured.
Perhaps the most similar player to him in the youth teams is Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey. He’s energetic, good on the ball, and capable of scoring goals. He’s also from Birmingham.
England already have one of Europe’s best right-wingers in Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal man was once again impressive over the international break, most recently scoring a stunner against Ukraine in a 2-0 win at Wembley Stadium.
If he is absent, that position may open up. Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford have played there before, but they both look far better suited to the left.
Maybe Noni Madueke can be the man to provide cover for Saka. In the thrashing of France, Chelsea’s January signing was the star of the show, scoring once and assisting twice off the bench.
If he can get some regular playing time in the Blues’ starting line-up, he could be a good candidate for a place in the England squad.
Folarin Balogun is a different case to the rest of this list. After scoring 17 Ligue 1 goals this season, many thought the Arsenal loanee would be in the senior squad this time around. However, Southgate opted for Brentford’s Ivan Toney ahead of him.
Since then, Balogun has taken a trip to the United States and some people believe that he is ready to switch allegiance to the Stars and Stripes. The forward was born in New York and also qualifies for Nigeria through his parents.
The danger of him switching could encourage Southgate to fast-track him into the first team. Having already lost Jamal Musiala to Germany, the FA will be desperate not to let another talented youngster slip through their fingers.
Harry Kane has got the striker spot nailed down for England and will be a certain starter if fit. The back-up role remains up for grabs.
Toney is the latest challenger, but Callum Wilson, Ollie Watkins and Tammy Abraham have also been called up in the last year.
At 21 years old, Balogun is significantly younger than all these players. He wouldn’t just offer an immediate alternative to Kane but could also be a potential long-term replacement.
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