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Yalla Shoot :Euro 2024 qualifiers: Eberechi Eze called up to England squad for first time, but Raheem Sterling left out

Eberechi Eze celebrating a goal for Crystal Palace
Eberechi Eze has scored 10 goals in all competitions for Crystal Palace this season

Eberechi Eze has been called up to the England squad for the first time for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers, but Raheem Sterling has been left out.

Crystal Palace midfielder Eze is included after scoring six goals in his last eight Premier League matches.

Chelsea forward Sterling misses out by mutual decision after talks with boss Gareth Southgate.

England face Malta in Ta’ Qali on 16 June, before playing North Macedonia at Old Trafford three days later.

The Three Lions top the early Group C table after beating Italy and Ukraine in their opening two qualifying matches in March.

Explaining the reasons behind his decision to leave out Sterling, Southgate said: “He is not happy with his condition physically, carrying a hamstring problem. He wasn’t really in consideration.

“He doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tyrone Mings and Lewis Dunk have also been recalled.

Dunk, whose only previous cap came against USA in 2018, returns to the squad after helping Brighton qualify for Europe for the first time in the club’s history.

Chelsea trio Reece James, Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell miss out through injury, while there is no place for Arsenal’s Ben White, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, Everton’s Conor Coady or AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori.

Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope is also not included as he needs an operation on a hand injury, with Crystal Palace’s Sam Johnstone recalled for the first time since March 2022 as his replacement.

Manchester City quintet John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips are included but will join up with the squad late because of their participation in the Champions League final against Inter Milan on 10 June.

The same also applies to West Ham captain Declan Rice, with the Hammers facing Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final on 7 June.

Southgate questions terms of Toney ban

Southgate questioned the terms of Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban for breaching Football Association betting rules.

The Brentford striker, who made his Three Lions debut against Ukraine in March, cannot play again until January 2024 but is unable to even train with his club until September.

“What bothers me is that we’ve got to look after people and he’s injured at the moment. What does he do about getting fit?” Southgate said.

“How do we give him some structure over the next few months so he can develop himself or be a better person at the end of it or have experiences he might not experience?

“I don’t like the idea that we just leave somebody, that they are not allowed to be part of the football community. I don’t think that’s how we should work.”

Eze rewarded for fine form

Eze, who is capped at U20 and U21 level, has been called up after spearheading Crystal Palace’s dramatic upturn in results under manager Roy Hodgson, with the Eagles winning five and drawing two of their nine matches under the former England boss to end any lingering fears of Premier League relegation.

The 24-year-old, who is also eligible to play for Nigeria, was expected to be included in England’s provisional 33-man squad for Euro 2020 two years ago but suffered an Achilles injury the same day as the squad announcement.

“We’ve liked him for a long time,” said Southgate. “He was very unfortunate just before the Euros. We were going to call him into a prep camp and he got an injury.

“He has finished the season very strongly, he can play in a couple of positions across that front line. He has high quality and bursts of speed to go past players with those dribbling skills.”

Defender Alexander-Arnold also returns to the squad having impressed in a midfield role for Liverpool in recent weeks, and Southgate says he could deploy him in a similar position.

“He’s a super footballer and he’s playing in a slightly different role,” added Southgate. “He has always been in advanced areas with the ball, he is just a bit more central now. It is interesting for us and an option and something I have spoken to him about in recent weeks. We are looking forward to working with Trent.”

‘Eze offers Southgate versatility’

Analysis by Alex Howell, BBC Sport

Southgate has made some interesting calls for the latest England squad. It is one that is slightly unusual as the first game the players play will be 19 days after the Premier League season has finished.

The biggest name missing is Sterling, but from Southgate’s comments and the messaging from Sterling’s camp it sounds like a mutual decision as the forward has said he doesn’t feel fit enough and is nursing a hamstring injury.

One of the standout names who is in the 25 man squad is Crystal Palace midfielder Eze. He’s been in excellent form since Hodgson returned to the club and has registered 10 goals from midfield this season.

He offers Southgate versatility and the England manager referenced his quality on the ball and the turn of speed he possesses as well.

It will be interesting to see where he will line up for the Three Lions as Southgate also mentioned his ability to play across the attacking positions, but he has been playing in a slightly deeper central role for his club.

Short presentational grey line

Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United)

Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), James Maddison (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)

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