Gareth Southgate has picked a 28-man squad for the UEFA Nations League games with Italy and Germany

The Three Lions play their final two games before November’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, starting with the trip to Milan on Friday 23 September before they welcome Germany to Wembley Stadium on Monday 26 September.

Among the 28-strong group is a first England call-up at any level for Brentford striker Ivan Toney, while there is also a return to the squad for Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier.

“We recognise the country is still in a period of mourning and my thoughts remain with the Royal Family,” said Southgate.

“While it is important to explain some of our decisions around selection, we didn’t feel it appropriate to hold a full press conference, when it might divert attention from where people’s minds should be at this time.

“This is a bigger than normal squad and part of the rationale is that we are very close to a World Cup and we feel, although our results were disappointing in the summer, we have picked on the basis of form and capability over a long period.

“There were certain players we wanted to keep involved this time, but that said it doesn’t mean that this is the end for some of the others who aren’t involved. Marcus Rashford, for example, has shown some encouraging signs recently. He is a player we know well so if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, he of course will be under consideration.

“Clearly, we have a number of players including Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips who are not playing a lot of minutes with their club. It is not ideal, but we feel they have been, and can be, important players for us. It is not a perfect situation but there is still a lot of football to be played before Qatar.

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“With Eric Dier, he has been playing well for a period of time. We think it is a really close call across our centre-backs and he has deserved to be picked back in the group. We know what a good character he is. He fits in with the culture and has great international experience and leadership qualities.

“With Ivan Toney, we have been tracking him for a long time. I had a good chat with Thomas Frank about him last season. His form and his qualities – not only his goalscoring but his technical ability, build-up play and aerial prowess – gives us a different threat to some of the other players we could pick.

“Reflecting on the last couple of months, clearly as an international manger you don’t have any games to quickly put the disappointment behind you. We have had a long period to reflect but now we are really looking forward to two high-quality matches that will be a great test for us and a crucial part of our preparation for the World Cup. It is only eight weeks until we will be naming our squad for Qatar so every minute counts.”

The group will meet at St. George’s Park next week to begin their preparations for the two games.

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