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Door remains wide open for England squad hopefuls

Less than two months before England manager Gareth Southgate names his provisional list of 35 for the World Cup finals only a handful of players can be reasonably confident of starting against Tunisia in Volgograd, Russia on June 18.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane, providing he is fit, and Manchester City right back Kyle Walker look safe bets to get the nod. However, after that pretty much every position is up for grabs.

It says much about the lack of 'world beaters' available to Southgate that so many players, many from unfashionable clubs, might still fancy their chances.

Friday's friendly away to the Netherlands and the home clash with Italy next Tuesday might shed more light on who will make the plane to Russia - or they might also pose more questions than they answer.

Southgate's biggest headache in the coming months might be deciding who he can trust in goal.

Joe Hart, who has 75 caps for England, was between the posts in nine of England's 10 qualification games, conceding only three goals. But erratic club form has seen him come under pressure from Stoke City's Jack Butland and Everton's Jordan Pickford, with Burnley's Nick Pope also in the frame.

Hart lost his place at West Ham United but returned against Burnley in the Premier League this month, only to make a howler in the 3-0 home defeat in which Pope excelled at the other end.

Butland and Pickford have many positive attributes but both made mistakes in Stoke's clash with Everton at the weekend and between them have conceded 101 league goals this season -- something that would not have gone unnoticed by Southgate.








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