Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad has been confirmed but while the Champions League final was still on the horizon, the squad was not fully complete. Now that game is out of the way, the England manager now has his full squad available as he attempts to prepare his team ahead of the World Cup Finals in Russia, which starts on June 14.

To help his team prepare, Southgate has arranged two friendly games which will take place over the next few days to allow him to assess his squad, blood some inexperienced or uncapped players and to generally prepare his team for the challenge facing them against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium in Group G.

England begin their World Cup quest on Monday 18th June with a game against Tunisia, this is followed on Sunday 24th June with their second game against Panama. Then two days later, on Tuesday 26th June, the Three Lions finish off the group with a game against the top seeds, Belgium.

Southgate clearly believes that the two friendly games coming up, against Nigeria at Wembley on the 3rd June and then Costa Rica at Elland Road on the 7th June will prepare his team for those two crucial opening games. There’s no doubt that the England manager will be seeking two wins from those games to ensure England qualify and then this will allow him to rest players in the final group game against Belgium.

Let’s now take a look at the 23-man squad Southgate has selected for the Finals this summer before we preview Saturday’s big warm up fixture with Nigeria.

England World Cup Squad

  • Goalkeepers – Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
  • Defenders – Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Man City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Ashley Young (Man Utd), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Phil Jones (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
  • Midfielders – Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Fabian Delph (Man City), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
  • Attackers – Raheem Sterling (Man City), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
  • Stand By Squad – Tom Heaton (Burnley), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth) – James Tarkowski (Burnley) withdrew due to a hernia operation.

There are some notable omissions from the squad, most notably Joe Hart in goal and Jack Wilshere in midfield, Wilshere in particular can count himself unfortunate especially when the equally fragile Ruben Loftus-Cheek grabbed a spot. Chris Smalling’s absence while Phil Jones inclusion is a surprise, with Smalling being the better of the two players all season long at Manchester United.

Several players have been ruled out with injury including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge, while Wayne Rooney has now retired from international football.

Nigeria World Cup Squad

Nigeria have named a preliminary 30 man squad for the World Cup, although this was reduced to 29 when Moses Simon withdrew injured on the 27th May. Manager Gernot Rohr will make his final cuts to the squad following Nigeria’s two friendly games against England on Saturday and then against the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

  • Goalkeepers – Ikechukwu Enzewa (Enyimba), Daniel Akpeyi (Chippa United), Francis Uzoho (Deportivo Fabril), Dele Ajiboye (Plateau United)
  • Defenders – William Troost-Ekong (Bursaspor), Leon Balogun (Mainz 05), Ola Aina (Hull City), Kenneth Omeruo (Kasimpasa), Brian Idowu (Amkar Perm), Chidozie Awaziem (Nantes), Shehu Abdullahi (Bursaspor), Elderson Echiejile (Cercle Brugge), Tyronne Ebuehi (Den Haag), Stephen Eze (Lokomotiv Plovdiv)
  • Midfielders – John Obi-Mikel (Tianjin TEDA), Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), John Ogu (Hapoel Be’er Sheva), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Uche Henry Agbo (Standard Liege), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Oghenakaro Etebo (Las Palmas), Joel Obi (Torino), Mikel Agu (Bursaspor)
  • Strikers – Odion Ighalo (Changchun Yatai), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Junior Lokosa (Kano Pillars), Simeon Nwankwo (Crotone)

While talented this Nigeria squad does lack some of the quality of its past teams and as such, they should perhaps not pose too much of a threat to the other teams in Group D in the World Cup, although they have the talent in midfield and attack to make it tough for any team. Their best player is arguably Chelsea winger Victor Moses or CSKA striker Ahmed Musa, although John Obi Mikel, the former Chelsea midfielder, is a much needed calming and experienced influence in midfield.

Saturday 2nd June – International Friendly

England v Nigeria

  • Venue – Wembley
  • Kick off – 5.15pm
  • Live – on ITV

Managers do tend to downplay the importance of getting a solid result in these World Cup warm up fixtures often citing it is the performance, the chance to get the players out on the pitch in a competitive game and the chance to experiment and give experience to players that is most vital.

I am not really a great believer in this line of thought as I think confidence gained from good performances and good wins in the run up to a World Cup can transfer into the tournament itself.

That said, I do expect both managers to ‘shuffle the packs’ a little for this game. I think Gareth Southgate will want to give both his uncapped stars at least a taste of international football before the finals and my money is on Nick Pope coming on as a sub here, with Trent Alexander-Arnold likely to feature as a sub against Costa Rica.

Similarly, I think Nigeria will use this game to look at some of their inexperienced players including the two strikers Lokosa and Nwankwo, who both have just one cap each, as well as another single cap player in Uche Henry Agbo.

As such, I cannot see this being a game where both teams really go hard for the win, especially if conditions are as warm in the capital as they have been for the past week or so. You may well find instead the teams adopt a more cautious, slower pace to cope with the conditions.

What I have done is looked at this game and put together the following tips:

Match Result – England v Nigeria – England Win (2/5 with Coral)

I think England will just about shade the win here due to their slightly better quality players, although Nigeria will make it tough. I can’t see too many goals here either. For better odds, you could back England to win to nil, which is a 21/20 shot with Coral.

Correct Score – England 1-0 Nigeria – 17/4 with Coral

England have hardly been freescoring under Gareth Southgate and against a decent Nigeria midfield and defence, I think they’ll struggle to make too many clear cut chances, especially with what is likely to be a more experimental team. As such, I think the 1-0 is the best option in terms of the correct score.

First Goalscorer – Harry Kane – 12/5 with Coral

With me predicting just a single goal in the game, the First Goalscorer is the best option here for value and I think Harry Kane, who needs games and a bit of fitness is a solid bet here as he is undoubtedly England’s main man in attack and he’ll want to go to the World Cup with a goal or two under his belt.  Crucially, I also feel he may well be the penalty taker.