Regardless of the tournament, squad announcements for national sides make headlines. That can be for the good. Or, just as easily, that can be for any potential omissions.
The latter stands out with two key English players not on the selection sheet. This suggests England manager Gareth Southgate made some mistakes in picking his 26-man squad for the World Cup in Qatar.
The case for England making a mistake in squad selection
Over in Italy, AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori likely feels hard done. He is one of the key names not on the plane to Qatar later this month. Tomori has been in solid form for the Rossoneri. The Canadian born, former Chelsea player, was expected to add to his current tally of three international caps this summer.
In fact, many people pegged Tomori to start alongside John Stones in the heart of the England defense. He would make his World Cup debut in that first game against Iran on Nov. 21 in the revamped Khalifa International Stadium.
The 24-year-old has certainly rose to prominence since his move to Italy. He suffered from a stuttering start to his career in England. Chelsea sent him off to three loan spells. That includes one at Derby in 2018/19, where the club voted him player of the year for that campaign. But, despite his starring role out on loan, he failed to breakthrough consistently upon his return to Stamford Bridge.
Moving across Europe was initially a loan move in January 2021. Since then, the six-foot center back grew into a confident defender. Currently, he is the most successful tackler in any of Europe’s top-five leagues since the start of the 2021/22 season. However, he’s just as adept with the ball as he is without it. Milan knows it is onto a good player. The club secured his services through 2027.
Many see Tomori’s omission as the biggest England squad mistake at the World Cup. Surely it stings for the 24-year-old. However, it is inevitable for the center back to stay out of the England squad for long. He will pull on the England kit in the not-so-distant future.
Another face missing from the squad who may feel aggrieved is Brentford’s talisman, Ivan Toney. The nomadic striker had eight clubs prior to joining his current employers, Brentford. There, he found a comfortable place to call home in West London.
Toney joined the Bees in the summer of 2020. In that first season, he hit the net 31 times with Brentford. He joined the club when Brentford battled in the Championship. His performances launched the club into the top flight for the first time in decades.
However, his prowess in front of goal continued in the topflight. Toney added another 20 goals to his account, and all those strikes have come in under 100 league games.
It’s hard to ignore such a prolific tally. Toney has more goals than Marcus Rashford and Callum Wilson this season. Plus, he scored more than both of those players in 2021/22.
So, aside from Tottenham striker Harry Kane, Toney is the second most prolific current England forward. Remarkably, Southgate selected just two out-and-out forwards: Kane and the aforementioned Callum Wilson. Questions arise over where the goals come from in the event of an injury to one, or both, of those players.
Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and James Maddison have success finding the net. However, they are not focal points in their clubs’ attacking options. Moreover, the Three Lions are not exactly smashing goals in from all angles of late. Therefore, Toney has more reason to be making the trip to Qatar.
Going into the World Cup, Southgate’s side have managed just four goals in their last six games and three of them came in their last fixture against Germany. Therefore, keeping Toney at home could be a mistake that could cost Southgate and England, dearly.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Action Plus
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