England manager Gareth Southgate insists he “won’t hesitate” to start Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi in Friday’s Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic after Marcus Rashford was ruled out.
Manchester United star Rashford has been struggling all week with an ankle injury and Southgate confirmed in Thursday’s pre-match news conference that the forward is due to return to his club for treatment.
Southgate does not plan to call up a replacement, meaning Borussia Dortmund’s in-form Sancho or Hudson-Odoi – who is yet to start a Premier League game for Chelsea – could benefit on Friday and three days later against Montenegro.
Sancho has starred in the Bundesliga this season, scoring eight times and getting 12 assists in 26 games, while he made his first three England appearances at the end of last year.
Hudson-Odoi – a late call-up to replace the injured Luke Shaw – is more of an unknown quantity given his lack of top-flight experience with Chelsea, but Southgate has been impressed by both 2017 Under-17 World Cup-winners in training.
“It’s difficult to say,” Southgate told reporters when asked if Sancho is further along in his development than Hudson-Odoi.
“Throughout the age groups they’ve been similar in development. Jadon has more big-match experience, he’s been with us for longer, but Callum has been excellent and I won’t hesitate to start either of them.
— England (@England) March 21, 2019
“We knew from a couple of days ago that Marcus wouldn’t be ready [for Friday]. It’s a great opportunity, they’ve been exceptional in training, we’re really excited.”
Hudson-Odoi is involved in the senior England squad for the first time, yet Southgate has been impressed by how he has taken the whole experience in his stride.
“He doesn’t look phased by it,” Southgate said. “That is young people today. They have great belief and confidence in their ability.
“It is also credit to the rest of the group. They make others feel settled. The beauty of St. George’s Park [England’s training base] is that players don’t feel it is a huge shift to come and play with the senior team.
“People have asked what’s the selection policy? And it’s ability and mentality. In the end, the players have to have the quality to play in the shirt.
“Ideally, they will have played a few games for the clubs, but what we see is people in different positions, and there is no hesitation. We will play someone we think suitable. I have no hesitation to play him [Hudson-Odoi].
“I don’t see a lack of confidence in Jadon [either]. He is another super talent. There are so many coming through our system.
“We have to give credit to our club academies. We have loads of creative players. There is real competition for places. If players miss games, there is no guarantee they will get back in. It is a challenge for the group.”
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