England manager Gareth Southgate says his team is still preparing to go to the World Cup in Russia. (Reuters / Action Images: Jason Cairnduff)
England coach Gareth Southgate says his team should go to the World Cup despite Russia being blamed for poisoning a former spy in Britain.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered politicians and royals not to attend the World Cup after former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious after being exposed to a nerve agent.
But the Government has not ordered the national soccer team to boycott the June 14-July 15 soccer tournament.
Southgate says it is a “serious matter” and “developing very quickly”.
But based on the briefings he has received, he said: “We are preparing to go to the World Cup. There is no doubt in my mind that is what we should be doing.”
Southgate named four uncapped players in his squad for this month’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.
Burnley duo Nick Pope and James Tarkowski, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook were included in a 27-man squad for the game in Amsterdam on March 23 and the Italy match at Wembley four days later.
Pope has filled in admirably for injured goalkeeper Tom Heaton at Burnley this season while central defenders Tarkowski and Mawson have also excelled.
With the World Cup three months away, England is having to make its preparations without injured star striker Harry Kane.
“All of the guys with us are in the running for the 23 going to the World Cup but there are also some others who aren’t available this month [due to injury],” Southgate said.
England is hoping star striker Harry Kane recovers from his ankle injury to play a big role in the World Cup. (REUTERS: Ian Walton)
“Harry Kane is one of those, Phil Jones is one, as are Fabian Delph and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek].”
Asked about Kane, who left the stadium on crutches after injuring his right ankle in Spurs’ win over Bournemouth at the weekend, Southgate said: “I think the medical reports we have are that he will play well before the end of the season.”
Southgate omitted centre backs Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Michael Keane.
He said it had been “a very difficult call” to drop Cahill, who has captained England before, and left open the possibility of the Chelsea player returning for the World Cup in Russia in June.
“We want to learn things from the [friendly] games about individual players and also get back reconnected with how we train, how we work and how we play because we’re only 90 days away from the first game of a World Cup,” Southgate said.
England’s World Cup campaign opens against Tunisia on June 18 in Volgograd.