England manager Gareth Southgate before the Euro 2024 qualifying draw at Festhalle, Frankfurt October 9, 2022. — Reuters pic
FRANKFURT, Oct 10 — England manager Gareth Southgate expects to lose more players to injury before the start of next month’s World Cup due to a packed schedule over the next few weeks.
Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips face a race against time to be fit for Qatar after undergoing surgery on groin and shoulder injuries respectively.
Southgate will have little time to prepare his squad for their first game against Iran on November 21, just eight days after the Premier League comes to a halt.
England have reached the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup under Southgate and he rejected the suggestion the team will be better served by a mid-season tournament than at the end of a draining campaign.
“I never bought the theory it’s better for us to be playing in the middle of the season than the end because we haven’t had a problem playing at the end,” said Southgate. “I always felt that was a bit of a myth.
“What I do see is a really packed schedule now with a lot of players playing a lot of minutes.
“I think realistically we will lose more. It’s so intense, and the players are playing so much football.”
With England heading into the World Cup on the back of a six-game winless run in the Nations League, there has been speculation over Southgate’s future after Qatar.
However, he looked forward to Euro 2024 on Sunday after being drawn alongside holders Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in Group C of qualifying.
“It’s obviously a very challenging group. Ukraine is a very strong team. As North Macedonia showed against Italy (in World Cup qualifying) that’s also got complications.
“I think it’s the first time in a while where there’s a bit more jeopardy and a bit more excitement on a qualifying group. It’s good for football because in the end you need that jeopardy to make the competition exciting.” — AFP