LONDON • Gareth Southgate has hinted that England will not win the World Cup this year and he will measure the success of their campaign in Russia by the development of the younger players in his squad.
England's performance in recent major events has been underwhelming, with the nation knocked out of the 2014 World Cup at the group stage and the 2016 European Championships in the round of 16 after a shock defeat by Iceland.
Manager Southgate will be eager to improve England's record but the 47-year-old says he is also focused on developing the young talent in his squad.
"I could sit here and say this round or that round. But it doesn't mean anything, really, because we have to keep improving as a team," Southgate told ESPN when asked what he would see as a successful World Cup.
"We're trying to change the style of play, we have our young players developing with better technical ability with the ball. We know these players and we believe that, in the long term, some of them can be world-class players.
"Maybe there are other players a bit older but we don't think we could win a World Cup with them in the future and would rather invest time and show belief in young players."
ENGLAND SQUAD FOR WORLD CUP 2018
Jack Butland, 25 (Stoke City) Jordan Pickford, 24 (Everton) Nick Pope, 26 (Burnley)
John Stones, 23 (Man City) Harry Maguire, 25 (Leicester) Phil Jones, 26 (Man Utd) Kyle Walker, 27 (Man City) Kieran Trippier, 27 (Tottenham) Gary Cahill, 32 (Chelsea) Ashley Young, 32 (Man Utd) Danny Rose, 27 (Tottenham) Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19 (Liverpool)
Eric Dier, 24 (Tottenham) Jordan Henderson, 27 (Liverpool) Dele Alli, 22 (Tottenham) Jesse Lingard, 25 (Man Utd) Raheem Sterling, 23 (Man City) Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22 (Chelsea) Fabian Delph, 28 (Man City)
Harry Kane, 24 (Tottenham) Jamie Vardy, 31 (Leicester) Marcus Rashford, 20 (Man Utd) Danny Welbeck, 27 (Arsenal)
His emphasis on building a team for the future led to experienced campaigners like Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere being excluded from his provisional 23-man World Cup squad announced yesterday.
The England boss is due to hold a media conference today.
Notably, the uncapped Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19, and 22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek (two caps) are included.
"The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, it's not just because they are young, it's because their performances deserve it," Southgate told The Guardian.
"I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about. It is a young group, but with some really important senior players so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance."
Former captain Gary Lineker has agreed with Southgate's mentality, saying England should write off the World Cup and use it as a chance to blood youngsters.
"If I was Gareth Southgate I would sell this on youngsters," he said at the BBC's launch of their coverage of the tournament.
"I would say this is an experience, take total pressure off them, say, 'It is all about experience, we are not going to do particularly well, we are not going to win this World Cup'.
HIS AIM IN RUSSIA
We're trying to change the style of play... Maybe there are other players a bit older but we don't think we could win a World Cup with them in the future and would rather invest time and show belief in young players.
GARETH SOUTHGATE, England manager, when asked what he would define as a successful World Cup.
"I think people will buy that because in four years' time we are going to be a serious force in world football... We have got some great young players.
"Just write it off, we haven't realistically got a chance, you never know what might happen in tournament football, but we haven't currently enough world-class players."
England open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on June 18 before matches against Belgium and Panama in Group G.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN