Gareth Southgate will use England’s friendly against Australia as a chance to experiment and help his squad build momentum before Euro 2024.
England’s manager, who hinted that there could be first caps for the Chelsea defender Levi Colwill and the Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah at Wembley on Friday night, wants to make sure he has players capable of challenging his regular starters.
“We need to give people opportunities,” Southgate said. “We have six matches before we name a squad in all likelihood for a European Championship. And so if people are going to have the chance to force their way into that squad, or that team, we need to play them.
“And also when you are keeping a squad and a spirit of a squad together people need the chance to play to really feel part of that. It is an important night for a lot of players – they will recognise that. Equally, we have to give them the best chance of succeeding and get the balance right and make sure the players are in positions they are comfortable with and a team that can work.”
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Southgate has to keep England fresh before Tuesday’s qualifier against Italy but he recognises the game against Australia will be key to certain individuals establishing themselves in the squad.
“We want to see as many of the squad as we can this week,” he said. “It is possible we have got more matches beyond that but there is a reality with England that you have to take your chances when they come. As a former player, you knew the moments when you felt: ‘OK, I have got to deliver tonight.’”
Southgate is pleased with his side’s performances since the World Cup but he warned his players that Australia will have a point to prove. He recalled Australia’s glee at beating England 3-1 in a friendly in 2003.
“We’ve talked to the players about the England-Australia sporting rivalry and we know what that means. I played with a lot of Aussies and when they beat us at Upton Park they were pretty quick to come back to Middlesbrough and [Mark] Schwarzer had a blow-up kangaroo under his arm and he was making hay with it all.
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“I suppose I keep having to say to our players before these games: ‘Look lads, this is another country that doesn’t particularly like us, so get prepared for that, they want to make hay and beat us.’ They’ll be highly motivated. I know [the Australia manager] Graham Arnold well. They’re an athletic team, they’ve had really good performances, so it’s going to be a really good test. We’ve got to be ready.”