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Gareth Southgate: 'England players can stake claim for World Cup places'

Southgate: 'England places up for grabs'
© Reuters
Gareth Southgate stresses that there are still places up for grabs for players in England's World Cup squad ahead of the friendly against Nigeria on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate has told his England players that there are still places up for grabs in the nation's World Cup squad and will be eager to see how they do against Nigeria on Saturday.

The Three Lions boss is getting his first chance to see his 23-man squad in match action against another qualified side ahead of their tournament opener against Tunisia on June 18.

Southgate has confirmed that Jesse Lingard will start against Nigeria, but insists that the Manchester United man is not directly vying against Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli for a starting berth in Russia.

Another key position yet to be decided is who will start as goalkeeper, with Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland seeking to pin down the number one role ahead of the uncapped Nick Pope.

"I don't think these are trial matches in that a bad performance rules someone out, but there are opportunities for people to really stake a claim in areas of the pitch where there is huge competition for places," Southgate told Sky Sports News.

"[The goalkeeping berth] will become apparent over the next five days. They are inexperienced in terms of senior international games but Pickford and Butland have the perfect path in terms of junior international tournaments and a lot of Premier League football under their belts."

Following the game against Nigeria, England wrap up their pre-World Cup friendly programme with a clash against Costa Rica on June 7.

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Jordan Pickford in action for England against the Netherlands on March 23, 2018
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