Gareth Southgate, manager of the England national football team, has selected 33 players for his provisional Euro 2020 team. The tournament is called Euro 2020 because it was supposed to be played last year.
The provisional squad includes three Everton players — goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, defender Ben Godfrey, and forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Southgate will have to cut seven players before the tournament to get the team down to 26. Pickford won’t be cut. He’ll likely be England’s starting goalkeeper, as he was three years ago at the last World Cup. Calvert-Lewin figures to make the team as a backup.
Godfrey’s chances of sticking are probably 50-50 or worse. He’s only 23 and has never played for the senior England team. More about him later.
Perhaps the most interesting selection was Liverpool’s right fullback, Trent Alexander-Arnold. He was a huge star for The Shite last season, but had a tough time of it during much of the current one. There was speculation that he wouldn’t make Southgate’s team, and he still might not. But at least he’s in the provisional unit.
I think it would be a mistake not to include Alexander-Arnold in the 26-man squad. He’s as good an attacking right back as there is. His ability to hit dangerous crosses in unsurpassed.
The problem is that he leaves lots of space behind him and isn’t an outstanding defender. Liverpool compensates for this with the way the team is organized. Southgate, understandably, wants set his team up his own way.
That’s a good reason not to include Alexander-Arnold in the starting lineup. But there likely will come a time during the tournament when England desperately needs a goal in the final 20 minutes. Having Alexander-Arnold available as a substitute could make the difference between getting that goal and falling short.
If Ben Godfrey makes the team it will be because of his versatility. This year, he filled in at every position in Everton’s back four (and occasional back five). He can also play the defensive midfielder position. But center back is where he truly excels.
I saw Godfrey play at Goodison Park in November 2019. He was a center back for lowly Norwich City at the time.
Before the match, I knew of Godfrey only by name. But that day, he was the best player on either team.
In the second half, Everton attacked toward the Gwladys Street end where I was sitting. Godfrey won everything in the air and nearly every battle on the ground. He stifled Calvert-Lewin who had come on as a sub. (A few months later, at a bar in D.C., I would see Godfrey stifle Tottenham Hotspurs more potent attack, as Norwich knocked Spurs out of a Cup competition.)
I was mortified to have gone all the way to England just to see Everton lose to the worst team in the Premier League. But if that match helped prompt the club to purchase Godfrey, it was worth it.
Godfrey might be England’s center back of the future. Alexander-Arnold should be England’s right back of the present — or rather the last 20 minutes of it.