Gareth Southgate bucks the trend with 'brutal' final England cuts

Gareth Southgate bucks the trend with 'brutal' final England cuts

Published Jun. 6, 2024 8:12 p.m. ET

England head coach Gareth Southgate knew he had to wield the ax sooner or later — and ultimately did it a day before the European Championships squad deadline.

Southgate revealed his 26-man roster on Thursday at the end of a grueling round of tough decisions, because that's what you get when you have a group of players stacked with international-level talent.

England is the betting favorite to win Euro 2024, and Southgate's task was more difficult than most of his coaching contemporaries because of the sheer number of options at his disposal. 


After the omission of Tottenham midfielder James Maddison was leaked a day earlier, Jack Grealish and Harry Maguire were the other big names to be told they won't be heading to Germany this summer.

How each of the 32 head coaches tackled the job of finalizing their squad ahead of next week's start to the tournament says a lot about their personal approach, and also the nature of the list of players available to them.

Southgate made a first cut to 33 names two weeks ago, with the headline disappointment belonging to Marcus Rashford, who played in the final three years ago but struggled for Manchester United last season.

"All of the players took the news really respectfully," Southgate told reporters. "Al players believe they should be in. We just feel other players have had stronger seasons, particularly in the last six months or so."

The remaining group had been training together, although Jude Bellingham was a late arrival, having been given a few days off after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid.

Maddison was a key part of things during qualifying, but had hit a stretch of disappointing form at club level. Grealish was a casualty because Southgate is over-subscribed with attacking options, while Maguire has been unable to hit full fitness. James Trafford, Curtis Jones, Jarrad Branthwaite and Jarell Quansah were the other sent home, mostly as expected.

However, the plight of players missing out through final cuts is one of the most brutal things in soccer. National teams get together at isolated training camps, and seek to come together quickly as a group. To suddenly be forced to leave such an environment before the tournament begins and miss out on one of the greatest events in the sport, is gut wrenching.

The inevitable emotions that go along with that is part of the reason why so many coaches elect to name their group early.

That's what Hungary did, and. Denmark, Serbia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Czechia and Georgia, plus Portugal, whose coach Roberto Martinez naturally included superstar Cristiano Ronaldo – now aged 39.

Croatia named its squad but put an additional nine players on standby, told to remain in shape and ready if any injuries. Ukraine did the same, but with six backups.

World Cup finalists France did not use their full allocation, Didier Deschamps going with 25 players just like he did in Qatar. Belgium took the same approach.

A small group, including both Germany and its opening game rival Scotland named 27 early, with the final cut most likely to be the fourth goalkeeper.

Others left some final decisions until late. Reigning champ Italy's Luciano Spalletti also pared the squad down to 26 on Thursday, leaving out Riccardo Orsolini, Samuele Ricci and Ivan Provedel.

The outliers were Switzerland and Turkey, still with 38 and 34 men in camp respectively as the cutoff neared, although part of that process was about trying to give experience and exposure to younger players who knew they had little chance of making the final number.

Whatever method used, that particular type of headache can at least now be put aside for the coaches. Before, of course, another bunch of them arrive – who to start, what formation to use, and how, ultimately, to try to win the tournament.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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