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Southgate and Kane hopeful of no repeat of racist abuse of players in Hungary

England begin their Uefa Nations League campaign today as they take on Hungary in Group A3. Germany and Italy are the other teams in England’s group so Gareth Southgate will want to kick off the Three Lions’ run with a positive result this evening.

The game was originally supposed to be played behind closed doors but the Hungarian FA have allowed 30,000 schoolchildren in to witness the clash after the hosts exploited a loophole against their punishment for racist behaviour. England beat Hungary in their World Cup qualifier on the road but drew at Wembley in their most recent encounter.

Southgate could potentially hand debuts to James Justin and Jarrod Bowen as four Nations League games will be played in quick succession, meaning changes to line-ups and personnel are expected to be commonplace over the next two weeks. The England manager’s main priority will be to utilise these matches to finalise who will be in his squad for this year’s World Cup, making performances more valuable than results in some cases as players stake their individual cases for inclusion. He’ll also be hoping England can keep up their recent record of challenging for honours in whichever competition they are taking part in.

Follow all the action as Hungary host England in the Nations League:

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England World Cup 2022 squad: Who’s on the plane, who’s in contention and who has work to do?

England will be aiming to go one better than last year and win their first major international tournament in 56 years at the World Cup in Qatar.

Gareth Southgate’s side will play the United States, Iran and the winner of a play-off between Wales and Scotland in the group stages.

This month’s Nations League fixtures against Hungary, Germany and Italy will provide Southgate with a valuable opportunity to assess his options ahead of the tournament, which begins in November.

It is yet to be confirmed whether squad sizes will be expanded to 26 players – up from the usual 23, but in line with last summer’s European Championship.

Here, The Independent takes a look at who could be included in Southgate’s final selection…

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:54

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Harry Kane feeling liberated as he hunts down Wayne Rooney’s England goal record

The time when Harry Kane was simply a goalscorer was consigned to the past amid a series of defence-splitting passes. He came to look the footballing quarterback when he released Tottenham’s wide receiver Heung-Min Son with a series of inch-perfect passes. His sporting horizons have broadened. “I guess the ideal career would be a World Cup, a Super Bowl and maybe a Masters green jacket, if I am lucky to do that,” the England captain said. A year ago, the answer might have involved winning the Champions League under Pep Guardiola. Now it has changed.

If Kane has voiced an ambition to become a kicker in the NFL, the golfing aside was not said completely seriously. He flew over to Augusta for the last round at the Masters, the day after Tottenham’s win at Aston Villa. He spent Thursday watching the cricket on television, first heartened by England’s bowling, then disappointed by their batting. The country’s footballers were watched in training by Marcus Smith, the rugby union international, while Kane openly admits to having picked Tom Brady’s brains about keeping cool under pressure.

And yet, amid the sporting crossover, his defining feats relate to the trait that brought him to prominence: a capacity to put the ball in the back of the net. As Kane said: “My first thought is football.” And he might soon rank first for goals. He already has a World Cup Golden Boot. He could add England’s goalscoring record in the next two weeks. A player with eight goals in his last four games now has four matches to come, even if Hungary, Germany and Italy promise to be tougher opponents than Albania and San Marino, who permitted him seven goals in four productive November days.

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:48

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Fikayo Tomori primed for England chance after patience in Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ‘team talks’

Fikayo Tomori watched England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy last summer in a hotel in Milan. He had spent most of the tournament back in London, cheering his international team-mates on for the quarter-final against Ukraine with friends at the Boxpark in Shoreditch. But he returned to the city that he now calls home a few days before the European Championship final.

“I remember when they scored, I just kind of had a face on and didn’t want to look too down, like we were going to lose,” he recalls. “Being there when they won, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.”

Tomori walked out by the duomo, past Italians celebrating in the cathedral’s piazza. “I was right in the middle of it,” he says, “but I just got home as quickly as I could.”

Tomori has fully embraced Italian life and culture since joining Milan on loan from Chelsea last season and making enough of an impression to earn a £25m permanent move. His Italian is coming on well – “sometimes, in the changing rooms, I find myself thinking in Italian instead of English,” he admits – and he is known to have acquired a taste for sfogliatelle, a shell-shaped pastry with a sweet filling.

“I’m enjoying it and I’m really happy. I think that when I went abroad there was talk around English players doing this, but I’ve just tried to embrace it as much as I could,” he says. “One thing I found is that when I’m in Italy I’m not thinking ‘I wish I was in England’. I feel really comfortable there; I’m not in a rush to come home if I have a day off. I’m settled and relaxed about being in Italy.”

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:43

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England Under-21s top Euros qualifying group after win in Czech Republic

England Under-21s went top of their European Championship qualifying group after beating the Czech Republic 2-1 in Ceske Budejovice.

Emile Smith Rowe’s stunning opener and a second goal from Aston Villa’s Jacob Ramsey put the Young Lions in control before Czech substitute Daniel Fila’s superb late effort set up an anxious finale.

But Lee Carsley’s side held on without further scare and remain firmly on course for next summer’s finals in Georgia and Romania.

England, who have won six and drawn one of their first seven group fixtures, leapfrogged the Czech Republic into top spot in Group G, level on points and with two games in hand.

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:39

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England starting line-up

England XI: Pickford, Walker, Coady, Maguire, Alexander-Arnold, Bellingham, Rice, Justin, Bowen, Kane, Mount

Michael Jones4 June 2022 15:35

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Harry Kane consults rival players over World Cup protest against Qatar’s human rights record

Harry Kane has consulted with players from other countries as he and the England team try to decide how they are going to highlight Qatar’s human rights record at the World Cup.

The 2022 hosts have been criticised for their treatment of migrant workers, women and the LGBTQ community with Amnesty International calling last month for Fifa to provide at least $440m (£350m) in compensation for migrant workers who have been wronged.

England players were given a briefing in March by FA chief executive Mark Bullingham about Qatar’s record of human rights abuses which vice-captain Jordan Henderson described as “shocking, disappointing and horrendous.”

And while Kane said they have not yet decided upon a course of action, he has conferred with members of other international teams. While he did not reveal who, one of his Tottenham team-mates is France’s World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris.

The England skipper said: “I have spoken to some of the other players around the team and a couple of the other players from some European countries. Once we have come to a conclusion on that we will let everyone know but it is still an ongoing conversation and nothing is set in stone.”

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:34

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Gareth Southgate’s ruthless streak offers new England faces both an opportunity and a warning

Either way, he had picked 98 footballers in his squads after the March internationals. Then the Leicester full-back and the West Ham winger got maiden call-ups.

Each was a reward for fine form but also an example of Southgate’s ethos. He can be England’s polite revolutionary. He has brought change from the off, dropping Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart soon into his reign.

A more recent omission is the out-of-form Marcus Rashford, one of his regulars. Eric Dier was an early favourite and has enjoyed, in Harry Kane’s opinion, perhaps his best season for Tottenham this season. Southgate still preferred to go with younger options, in Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi and Ben White, even if injury means none will play in Budapest on Saturday.

Full report from Rich Jolly:

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:30

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Joe Cole backs West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen to shine for England

The 25-year-old has shone for David Moyes’ Hammers this season and would have been called up by the Three Lions in March was it not for a foot injury.

Bowen scored 18 goals in all competitions and provided 13 more during a memorable campaign that is set for an unforgettable conclusion, having been included in the England squad for the first time.

Ex-West Ham star Cole is excited to see his debut in the upcoming Nations League fixtures and believes the former Hull man has the attributes to succeed at international level.

“For Jarrod Bowen and James Justin, I think it’s going to be a massive moment for them in their respective journeys,” he told the PA news agency.

“They’ve come a long way, Jarrod in particular. He’s come from Hull to West Ham and he’s been outstanding this year. He really, really deserves it.”

More here on the potential debutants:

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:26

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Nations League provides crucial test for England with Qatar World Cup on horizon

England on Saturday start a mammoth international break, with a seemingly interminable four games, and yet the most important match will still be one they are not involved in.

Gareth Southgate’s squad will gather to watch Sunday’s play-off between Wales and Ukraine that decides the last place in their World Cup group. It will be welcome given the amount of down-time the players have over these two weeks, which is why it could also offer the opportunity to provide some education on the more problematic side of Qatar 2022.

It is fair to say that more than a few of them have been echoing Kevin De Bruyne’s comments asking why they have to face four matches at the end of such a long season. Some of that is because of the change to the calendar enforced by Qatar, but it also means that the World Cup – for all the charm of the Nations League – is what this break is really all about.

Its length represents that of a rugby-style international camp, so Southgate can properly work on what he wants, and any new ideas he might have.

Read Miguel Delaney’s full match preview here:

Karl Matchett4 June 2022 15:19