Raheem Sterling was the headline absentee as Gareth Southgate handed Eberechi Eze his first England call-up and ended Lewis Dunk’s time in the international wilderness.

Having kicked off Euro 2024 qualification with wins over Italy and Ukraine, attention turns to June’s straightforward-looking doubleheader against Malta and North Macedonia.

Sterling is the most eye-catching absentee for those games as a difficult first season since swapping Manchester City for Chelsea comes to a frustrating conclusion.

The 28-year-old has not played for England since the World Cup quarter-final exit to France – when a burglary at home disrupted his preparations – as injury ruled him out of the March camp.

“I spoke with him a week or so ago – a general catch-up,” England boss Southgate said.

“He’s not happy physically with his condition, having been carrying a hamstring problem. He really wasn’t in consideration.

“So, we didn’t get to the point of whether he should be in or out. He doesn’t think he is operating at the level he needs.”

A representative for Sterling called it a “mutual decision” that allows the player to focus on “recuperating his body in preparation for the upcoming season”.

The 28-year-old is determined to play a key role for England next term and Southgate says he can get back into the fold ahead of next year’s finals, as can omitted Tottenham defender Eric Dier.

“As we’ve shown with Tyrone (Mings) coming back (this time) and other players like Trent (Alexander-Arnold) coming back in, the door is always open when players are playing well,” Southgate told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Eric and Raheem both have physical issues really at the moment that they’re dealing with, so there’s part of that is behind that decision as well.

“But there’s another year to go before the Euros and it’s possible for everybody to get in that squad.”

Mings, Alexander-Arnold, Callum Wilson and Sam Johnstone returned to the England squad as Southgate has largely stuck with the tried and tested for the Group C games, with Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Eze the only uncapped player named in the group.

The 24-year-old finally get his shot with England after an Achilles injury cost him a place in the provisional Euro 2020 squad.

“We have liked him for a long time,” Southgate said.

“He was very unfortunate just before the Euros. We were going to call him into a prep camp to have a look at him and he got a bad injury.

“I remember talking to Roy Hodgson about him then and Roy telling me he’d picked up an injury in training that day.

“I think he has finished the season really strongly, he can play in a couple of positions across that attacking line.

“He’s a goal threat, he’s got nice ability and bursts of speed to go past people and to take people out of the game with dribbling skills.

“We’re looking forward to seeing him a bit closer and everybody I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person as well.”

Dunk has played for England but the Brighton captain has not been selected since winning his first cap against the United States in November 2018.

“Brighton’s football this year has been exceptional and Lewis Dunk and Levi Cowell have been a big part of that,” Southgate said.

“He’s shown great composure with the ball, he’s asked to defend very often one against one situations and he thoroughly deserves his call.”

The squad also includes Marcus Rashford, who missed March’s fixtures and last featured for England in a qualifier in the run to the last Euros.

“He’s a super player who’s had a really good season, so he’s an important player for us,” Southgate told talkSPORT.

“We’ve not been blessed with having him to be able to put in the team too often but we’re hoping that’s different. And we’re looking forward to seeing him again.”

There is no place for Ben White, who has not featured for England since leaving Qatar after the World Cup group stage due to personal reasons.

“I spoke with Ben before the camp in March,” Southgate added.

“But at the moment, we’ve got (Kieran) Trippier and (Kyle) Walker in that area of the pitch.

“He’s had a very good season, as have the whole Arsenal team, but he’s not ahead of those guys at the moment.”

Hope Powell has joined the England backroom staff for the men’s Under-20 World Cup in Argentina, the Football Association has announced.

Powell, who was head coach of the senior England women’s team between 1998 and 2013 and was more recently in charge at Brighton, will serve as a technical advisor to Ian Foster and his coaching team.

The 56-year-old also coached the Great Britain women’s team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

She led the Lionesses to the 2009 European Championship final and coached the team at two World Cups.

Powell’s appointment is supported by the England Elite Coach Programme, a partnership between the FA and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association. The aim of the programme is to support individuals from under-represented groups to work with the England national teams.

Young Lions head coach Foster said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we’ve been able to bring Hope on board for our FIFA Men’s U20 World Cup as technical advisor.

“I’ve known Hope since 2014 when we completed our LMA Diploma together. Her vast experience of international football and the knowledge she has from working with FIFA will be invaluable to us.”

England open their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday.

New Zealander John Mitchell has been named as the new head coach of the England women’s team.

Mitchell, who has had two spells on the coaching team with England’s men’s side in a lengthy career, is currently defence coach for the Japan men’s side and will take up his new role after the Rugby World Cup later this year.

Mitchell succeeds Simon Middleton, whose trophy-laden eight-year spell ended with another Six Nations Grand Slam last weekend.

He said on englandrugby.com: “The Red Roses have set an incredible standard and foundation for women’s rugby, being the most successful team in the Six Nations, which is a tremendous achievement.

“We now have the opportunity to build on this, mature in key areas and become a truly champion side that can rightfully contest for the World Cup in 2025.

“I would like to honour the hugely supportive Red Roses fans with successful performances as we work towards winning and selling out Twickenham Stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2025.”

The black mark on Middleton’s reign was two World Cup final defeats to New Zealand and Mitchell’s main target will be to claim the prize on home soil in two years’ time.

Louis Deacon will keep his role as forwards coach and will be acting head coach until Mitchell joins while England’s most capped player and former captain, Sarah Hunter, has been appointed to the role of transition coach, working with the senior team and upcoming players.

Lou Meadows has been promoted from her role as under-20s head coach to attack coach for the senior team, with Charlie Hayter becoming head of women’s performance.

Executive director of performance rugby, Conor O’Shea, said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming John back to England Rugby together with Louis, Charlie, Sarah and Lou.

“This will be a formidable coaching team to take the Red Roses to the next stage in their development.”

Cricket West Indies (CWI) today announced the full schedule for the West Indies Men’s 2023 International Home series against England. The world champions will visit the Caribbean in December where they will play a three-match CG United One-Day International (ODI) Series and five match T20 International (T20I) Series.

England arrive in Antigua to start the tour with two CG United ODIs at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on 3 and 6 December. The third CG United ODI will be played at Kensington Oval, Barbados on 9 December followed on 12 December by the first of five T20Is.

The Spice Isle of Grenada welcomes both teams for two T20Is on 14 and 16 December and the tour concludes in the week before Christmas with the fourth and fifth T20Is at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Trinidad which will be hosting a West Indies vs England men’s fixture for the first time on 19 and 21 December.

CWI’s Chief Executive Officer, Johnny Grave said: “We are delighted to be able to confirm the England match schedule and to welcome once again their many travelling fans to the region for a pre-Christmas white-ball tour. “

Grave added: “This tour will be a major economic boost to the host countries, as well as providing our fans with the chance to see some of their favourite players in action against one of our biggest rivals. The tour will also help with our ongoing venue preparation and event planning for one of the biggest events ever to be staged in the region, the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, which takes place in June next year.

"We also look forward to announcing the fixtures and venues for the India tour of the West Indies in July and August very soon."

Official West Indies Tour Operators and ticket information for the series will be announced in the coming weeks with tickets available in advance on the Windies Tickets service presented by Mastercard, accessible via Windiescricket.com where fans can also find all the latest news and scores. Fans can register sign up to receive the first news of tickets going on sale at https://www.windiescricket.com/updates/. ​


CG United One-Day Internationals

3 December: 1st CG United ODI, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua

6 December: 2nd CG United ODI, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua

9 December: 3rd CG United ODI, Kensington Oval, Barbados

T20 Internationals

12 December: 1st T20I, Kensington Oval, Barbados

14 December: 2nd T20I, Grenada National Stadium, Grenada

16 December: 3rd T20I, Grenada National Stadium, Grenada

19 December: 4th T20I, Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Trinidad

21 December: 5th T20I, Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Trinidad

Gareth Southgate has told England hopefuls they must “earn the right” to break into a group hellbent on winning next year’s European Championship.

The 52-year-old’s early selections always had an accent on youth and sometimes surprised, yet Ivan Toney is the only player to have made their senior bow this season.

Southgate understandably kept with the tried and tested as Euro 2024 qualification got under way just 103 days after their World Cup quarter-final exit, but June appears a good chance to experiment.

England sit atop of Group C after beating holders Italy and Ukraine in March, taking the heat off the straightforward-looking doubleheader against Malta and North Macedonia.

“If we’re going to have a look at players, they’ve got to earn the right,” Southgate told the PA news agency.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to win the two matches and I think we’ve always given people opportunities at the right time.

“That’s why the team has had a youthful look over the years and it’s why new players have been able to come through and we’ve been able to evolve the team over a period of time.

“We’ll always look to give people opportunities, but they have to be earned.”

Rather than a chance to experiment, Southgate sees June as an opportunity for his players to show their commitment to the collective goal of Euro 2024 glory.

Many will not have played for almost three weeks when England travel to Malta, but winning there and at home to North Macedonia will see them take a giant stride towards the finals in Germany.

“We’re in the middle of a qualifying campaign that we’ve started well and we need to make sure that we take full advantage of the start that we’ve had,” Southgate said.

“All of our discussions as a team have been about wanting to be European champions – what that’s going to take, what that means in terms of commitment, what that means in terms of quality.

“So, every time we get together – we’re only going to have four or five camps before a European Championship – we have to make the most of every day that we’re working.”

That commitment to work, and one another, has been key in England’s eye-catching rise from Euro 2016 embarrassment to within penalty kicks of winning the last edition at Wembley.

Every starter from the final remains heavily involved, with the players’ proven ability to perform for their country and shared experiences part of the reason why Southgate has not trialled as many new players of late.

“There’s that element (that they have proven it),” he said. “And also when you’re building a team, it’s about the experiences that you share together.

“When you’re in the last 10 minutes away in Naples and you’re down to 10 men, that camaraderie and spirit that comes from being a close team is what gets you over the line. We constantly have to build on that.

“That’s why those guys that have been together such a long time, it’s more than just how they might be playing at any one given time with their club or it’s more than just the ability they might have.

“It’s everything that comes together and June is another moment where we have to do that.”

That does not mean Southgate is resting on his laurels with Euro 2024 coming into focus as he believes “any team is constantly in a period of flux”, with the constant highs and lows of individual emotions feeding into the wider picture.

“We talk about culture within teams a lot, but I think that has to be constantly worked at and it will be constantly challenged,” the 57-cap former defender said.

“Although I think, generally speaking, this team have shown tremendous progress and they do get on really well, I don’t take it as a given that that’s going to happen in the next camp or next season because you can never switch off.

“The best teams are constantly challenging themselves and are ready for the challenge that everybody else around them is providing.”

Southgate shared his views on teamwork, competition and confidence with students during a surprise appearance to a Leeds school to support Channel 4’s efforts to inspire the next generation of broadcast professionals.

The England boss held a mock press conference as part of the 4Schools initiative and spent time speaking with each of the 30 students after the event at Lawnswood School.

“When you’re playing for the national team, you’re representing everybody, you have the chance to bring people together,” Southgate said.

“And, without a doubt, because of the position we hold we can make a difference to people’s lives.

“So, I understand that when I come to an event like this you do have the opportunity to inspire people or to bring some enjoyment to their day.

“But also, I think we can all remember what it was like for us at their age and the things that worried you, and the things that you find out later are things that you shouldn’t worry about.

“So, to try and give some perspective that hopefully will give them something to think about when they go away.”

:: Gareth Southgate was with Channel 4 in partnership with 4Schools at Lawnswood School in Leeds to inspire students interested in sports journalism

England will welcome Tonga for a historic three-match Test series in October and November.

The contests, which will be played at St Helens on October 22, Huddersfield six days later and Headingley the following week, will mark a maiden international series between the two countries.

It is understood the initial plan was to invite New Zealand over and while that fell through, England head coach Shaun Wane, leading the side on Saturday for the first time since last November’s World Cup semi-final loss to Samoa when they take on France, insisted Tonga will pose a formidable challenge.

“Throughout my time as England head coach I have said we need to challenge ourselves against the best sides the international game has to offer – and Tonga are certainly one of those,” Wane said.

“They’ve been a real success story on the international stage in recent years, building on their exploits at the 2017 World Cup, and they will offer a real test.

“It’s also a great opportunity for us to get three high-quality Test matches under our belt as we continue to push towards the next World Cup in 2025.”

England were given a stiff test when they last played Tonga, who with seven minutes remaining in their 2017 World Cup semi-final trailed 20-0 before running in 18 points to set up a grandstand finish.

England held on to secure a 20-18 victory at Auckland while Tonga pushed eventual runners-up Samoa all the way in last year’s World Cup before going down by an identical scoreline in their quarter-final at Warrington.

Head coach Kristian Woolf is not underestimating how significant the series against England is for Tonga, who have recorded wins over Australia and Great Britain in recent years.

“There is no doubt that this is another historic moment for Tongan Rugby League,” Woolf said.

“This will be the first time one of the Pacific Nations has been invited to play in a full three-Test series against England, in the place where our great game began.

“It is easy to forget that this is an honour usually only reserved for countries like Australia and New Zealand.

“I know our players are excited by this challenge, and are also keen to go back to England to try and prove what we can do in the northern hemisphere. We feel we did not showcase our best at last year’s World Cup, and this will be an opportunity for Tonga to correct that.”

Stuart Broad hopes Australia try to fight fire with fire by trying to adopt England's aggressive approach in the Ashes.

England have enjoyed a significant upturn in fortunes since Brendon McCullum was appointed Test head coach and Ben Stokes replaced Joe Root as captain.

An attacking philosophy enabled them to secure an unprecedented 3-0 away series whitewash of Pakistan after they beat New Zealand and South Africa on home soil, as well as India in a rearranged Test.

They also drew 1-1 in New Zealand, losing a thrilling second Test by one run after making the Black Caps follow-on.

Seamer Broad believes Australia could come unstuck if they try to score at a rapid rate in the battle for the urn.

He told the Daily Mail: "'It's going to be a slight clash of styles and I'm fascinated to see how their bowling attack will defend against us.

"And it will be interesting to see how their batters stay calm because we play so aggressively now. Will they be able stick to their game plans and bubbles when we're playing this style? That will be a test for them.

"I think it would be great for us if Australia try to take us on at our own game. If we can get them playing in a slightly different style they could make mistakes and that would be brilliant for us.

"Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja are all guys who like to bat time and accumulate so if we can nibble away at them and just get them thinking 'why are we not scoring quicker? Why are we not moving the game forward?'

"We leave Jack Leach's mid-on and mid-off in all the time and Stokesey basically says 'you're not having them back. Let them keep hitting you'.

"And he's probably got more caught mid-offs now than lbs, so it's playing on minds. I'd love Smith to dance down the track and sky one to mid-off early doors. That would be classic."

England were hammered 4-0 in the last Ashes series in Australia, but Broad has written that off as "void".

"Nothing was harsher than the last Ashes series," he said. "But in my mind I don't class that as a real Ashes. The definition of Ashes cricket is elite sport with lots of passion and players at the top of their game.

"Nothing about that series was high level performance because of the Covid restrictions. The training facilities, the travel, not being able to socialise. I've written it off as a void series."

Mark Wood has backed fellow England fast bowler Jofra Archer to be fit and ready for a role in this summer’s Ashes.

The pace pair have struggled with serious injury problems over the course of their careers – perhaps unsurprising given their shared ability to hit extreme speeds in excess of 95mph – but are hopeful of taking on Australia in the coming months.

Archer last played Test cricket more than two years ago, spending much of the intervening period battling with a longstanding elbow complaint, and reacted angrily to reports this week that he had recently been forced to undergo a minor procedure on the joint.

He took to Twitter to rebuke revelations that came at a “worrying and troubling time for a player” but he was cleared to play his second IPL game of the season on Saturday and remains in England’s thoughts for their hotly-anticipated series against Australia, which begins in June.

Wood, who is also in India with Lucknow Super Giants, is also hoping to be involved after being ruled out of the whole of last summer’s international programme and expects Archer to be ready too.

“I feel for Jofra actually and I can sympathise with him quite a bit there,” the Durham quick told Sky Sports News.

“You feel like you’re just getting back and then you have a little setback and things happen. The curve’s never in a straight line is it? You know that on the way back you’re going to have bumps along the way. But he’s a champion player and I’m sure he’ll come back and be a champion again.

“I think, reading between the lines, it sounds like it’s not a massive setback that he’s going to have. He has overcome bigger things and I’m sure that he will be ready for the Ashes.

“England aren’t going to be silly with things. They’re going to know they want him for that series and they’re going to be looking ahead. He’ll get great treatment there in Mumbai and England will look after him so that, come the Ashes, he will be mentally and physically ready.”

Wood was one of the few visiting players who enhanced his reputation during England’s humbling 4-0 defeat Down Under in 2021-22 and is sure it will be a much closer contest this time around.

“I think Australia are a world-class team and I think it will be a great series,” he said.

“This (England) team is capable of achieving great things and I wouldn’t want to put any marker on it and say we can’t do anything, or set the bar at any sort of level, because I think this team can really achieve great things.”

Australia have named a 17-man squad for the upcoming ICC World Test Championship final and the first two Tests in the Ashes series in England, with David Warner backed despite his recent unconvincing form.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh, opening batsman Marcus Harris and wicketkeeper Josh Inglis have earned recalls with few major shocks in the Australian touring party. Marsh missed most of the Australian summer due to an ankle injury.

Harris was preferred ahead of in-form opener Cameron Bancroft, despite the latter topping the 2022-23 Sheffield Shield scoring charts by almost 300 runs, with 945 runs at 59.06 including four centuries.

Peter Handscomb, Ashton Agar, Mitch Swepson and Matthew Kuhnemann miss out on selection after being called in for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in India. Fast bowler Lance Morris is unavailable for selection due to a back injury.

Matthew Renshaw has retained his spot after scoring two centuries for Australia A against New Zealand A earlier this month, while 35-year-old Warner will return after a fractured elbow sustained during the India series.

Warner's selection will raise eyebrows, having scored just one Test century in his past 32 innings, albeit a gritty 200 in the recent Boxing Day Test against South Africa.

The veteran opener averaged only 9.5 across 10 innings in that last Ashes in England in 2019, with Stuart Broad dismissing him seven times.

Australia will take on India in the World Test Championship final from June 7 at The Oval in London, followed by the five-Test Ashes series from June 16 at Edgbaston. The selectors have clarified they will revisit the squad after the first two Ashes Tests.

"The UK is a very different assignment from our most recent tour of India and some of the changes are based upon the conditions we are anticipating," National Selection Panel Chair of Selectors George Bailey said.

"Marcus, Josh and Mitch return to the squad and provide valuable depth and flexibility within their respective skillsets.  

"We see value in revisiting the squad following the second Ashes Test given the short turnaround between the WTC final and the first Ashes Test, along with the length of the tour."

Australia won the 2021-22 Ashes on home soil 4-0, while the 2019 series in England ended 2-2. The Australians will compete in the World Test Championship final for the first time with New Zealand beating India to the inaugural crown in 2021.

Squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, David Warner

Ben Stokes has promised to continue England's aggressive and attacking style and eased concerns over his own fitness ahead of the Ashes this summer. 

Stokes, who succeeded Joe Root to become England's Test captain last year, has implemented an aggressive approach and has led the side to 10 wins out of 12 since taking charge.

England have not won an Ashes series against Australia since 2015, but their skipper has promised not to deviate from this new style when they face the top-ranked Test side. 

"I'm not going to change anything just because it's the Ashes," Stokes told Sky Sports.

"I'm not going to change for anything or any situation, because then I'm not being true to myself and what I've done over the last year. 

"Every player knows the Ashes is where everything ramps up a bit – pressure, exposure, all kinds of stuff – but we'll just keep sticking to what we do.

"If you plan for negativity, it is inevitable it is going to happen." 

English pitches have notoriously been prepared to suit their swing bowlers, but the England captain revealed he has now requested flatter pitches to help benefit their swashbuckling batting approach and abundance of fast-bowling talent. 

"We want fast, flat wickets. We want to go out there and score quickly," he said. "I'm smiling because I'm looking forward to it. 

"I think having the option to have someone who can bowl above 90 miles per hour is what any captain wants.

"Hold me to it. Every game I play this summer will be to produce a result."

Stokes is close to knowing his XI for the first Test and has been boosted by his own fitness after concerns about his knee after England's Test series in New Zealand.

The all-rounder bowled himself sparingly in that series and has not played for Chennai Super Kings in their last two IPL games but said he is now bowling "pain-free" for the first time in over a year. 

"I've worked so hard over the last month, five weeks, to get where I am now," he said.

"That's down to a lot of hard work I've done – medically, in the gym, and I obviously had a bit of help with some cortisone injections.

"The main priority for me is making sure that I can fulfil my role as fourth seamer in the Ashes.

"I've had some good conversations with the people who are employed to look after us, body-wise. I said I'll be doing everything I can whilst I'm in India to make sure that when we get to the Ashes, I'll give myself the best opportunity to do my role."

Former England back and the Premiership's record try scorer Chris Ashton has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

The 36-year-old scored 20 tries in 44 games for England in rugby union, while he also represented his country in rugby league.

Ashton played for Wigan Warriors before switching codes in 2007, going on to feature for Northampton Saints, Saracens, Toulon, Harlequins and Sale Sharks, before moving to Leicester Tigers in 2022.

He became the record try scorer in the Premiership in April last year when his hat-trick against Bristol gave him a total of 95 tries, taking him past previous holder Tom Varndell. He now has a total of 98, with a further 41 in the Champions Cup.

Ashton has three Premierships to his name, as well as two Champions Cups and one European Challenge Cup.

"I have just felt, this season, that my body is not able to do what I want it do anymore," he told the Tigers' website on Wednesday.

"I am still enjoying the game, enjoying being in and around the team and the game every day, but if I am not able to keep the standards that I expect of myself, then it is the right time for me to retire.

"I am content with the decision and, honestly, I definitely wouldn't have been had I not been able to come to Leicester Tigers, get back into the game and finish my career on my terms.

"It is the right time for me, I know that, and I am happy in making this decision at this time... I still can't believe all that I have been able to do and all that rugby union has given me."

He added: "I know I wouldn't be where I am today or achieved all that I have without the support from the very beginning from my family, in my mum, dad, brother and sisters, as well as all that my wife, Melissa, and children, Ava and Isaac, have given to me.

"I have been fortunate to have shared in so many special moments with all of my family throughout the years and especially, in these later years, the chance to share in even more with my kids."

The UK and Ireland submitted an official bid to host Euro 2028 on Wednesday, with the homes of Everton, Tottenham and Newcastle United among those proposed to be used.

Overall, 10 stadiums are included in the bid; Wembley Stadium, Hampden Park, Principality Stadium, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Etihad Stadium, St James' Park, Villa Park, Hampden Park, Aviva Stadium, Casement Park and Everton's new stadium, which is still under construction.

England has previously hosted the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96, while multiple games were played at Wembley Stadium and Hampden Park during Euro 2020.

Women's Euro 2022 was also hosted in England, with the hosts ultimately winning the trophy.

The bid claims the UK and Ireland is: "Committed to delivering a record-breaking tournament with more tickets than ever before to grow a more diverse and inclusive game," saying there will be almost three million tournament tickets available.

UEFA also confirmed it had received bid dossiers from Turkey to host either Euro 2028 or 2032, and Italy for Euro 2032.

The UEFA Executive Committee will vote in October to decide who has won the right to host both tournaments.

Virgil van Dijk may have struggled for Liverpool this season but Jamie Carragher says no centre-back in the Premier League has ever had a greater impact on their team.

Carragher jumped to the defence of the Reds centre-back on Twitter, suggesting Van Dijk was far better than former Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic and had performed on the same level as Kevin De Bruyne in recent years.

That came after Liverpool's entertaining 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday, when Jurgen Klopp's defence left much to be desired as Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Jesus fired in the first half.

Van Dijk's performances have repeatedly been questioned this season, with Carragher delivering a scathing assessment of the defender after Liverpool's 5-2 Champions League home thrashing by Real Madrid in February.

While former Reds captain Carragher acknowledged the disappointing nature of the Netherlands international's season, he believes no centre-back comes close to Van Dijk in the Premier League era.

Responding to another tweet criticising Van Dijk's form, Carragher wrote: "VVD [Van Dijk] is far better than Vidic, who was a top CB [centre-back], but have you forgot [Vidic's] performances against [Liverpool's Fernando] Torres?

"Rio [Ferdinand] and JT [John Terry] had poor seasons in their career like all players, VVD is having one now. No CB in the PL era has ever had VVD's impact on a team."

Seemingly irked by football followers questioning Van Dijk, Carragher doubled down on his defence of the 31-year-old, likening his impact on the Premier League to City's De Bruyne.

"Never mind the best CB in the league, he's been the best player in the league along with KDB [De Bruyne] for four years before this one," Carragher added.

"We have never spoken about other CBs being the best player before, that shows the level he was at."

When questioned on the topic of impact, with Vidic's five Premier League titles, one Champions League and three EFL Cups at Manchester United put to him, Carragher insisted Van Dijk still reigns supreme.

"If you or anyone thinks Vidic is better than VVD you're not watching the same game! He's miles better!!"

Trent Alexander-Arnold must forget the idea of being a midfielder and focus on not being a "liability" defensively, otherwise he risks his chances with England in future.

That was the message from former England and Manchester United captain Gary Neville, now a Sky Sports pundit, who was left unimpressed by Alexander-Arnold's defensive lapses against Arsenal.

The Liverpool right-back was caught out of position when Gabriel Martinelli crossed from the left for Gabriel Jesus to head in Arsenal's second, after Martinelli had earlier opened the scoring at Anfield on Sunday.

Alexander-Arnold would make amends by creating Roberto Firmino's late leveller in the 2-2 draw, with his sixth Premier League assist against the Gunners (only Steven Gerrard has more with seven).

But Neville, who has regularly questioned the England and Liverpool defender's abilities at the back, says Alexander-Arnold's error-laden defensive performances cannot be masked by his output going forward.

"He was absolutely sensational going forward," Neville said on his Sky Sports podcast. "I don't know what to say about him anymore because his defensive play is that bad.

"Some of the positions he takes up against Martinelli to defend a straight pass is schoolboy defending.

"I don't understand it. But some of his attacking play, his deliveries and his courage to get on the ball despite those mistakes has got to be admired. I admire him enormously.

"He doesn't need to become the best defender in the world. He just cannot be a liability. He doesn't have to be a great defender with the way in which he attacks. I don't think anybody is asking for that.

"You're just asking for a little bit of competence and attention to your work. The conversation will continue about him.

"I hope somehow over the summer the penny drops and he realises that his defensive work is hurting him.

"It's hurting him because he's been left out of the England squad. How can that talent be left out of an England squad?

"When you're playing for a team that is out of form such as Liverpool, those weaknesses get exposed a little bit more."

Klopp opted to utilise Alexander-Arnold as an inverted full-back when in possession, much like Oleksandr Zinchenko did for Arsenal.

Alexander-Arnold delivered in an attacking sense, with game-leading returns for final-third entries (13), chances created (four), touches (76) and passes into the opposition's third (24).

But Neville remains unsure whether Alexander-Arnold could replicate a similar showing if tasked with operating as an out-and-out midfielder.

He added: "Alexander-Arnold would drift into midfield in any case given the freedom being at right-back gives him, but if he was actually down to play in midfield away from home in the Premier League and he was getting the ball popped into him, when he's got his back to play, that's a different ball game.

"Some of the best midfielders in the world, the Xavis, [Andres] Iniestas, they're the ones who can manipulate the ball and Rodri does it very well. Trent wouldn't be able to do that, honestly.

"It's something we've said before about Declan Rice, and his ability to receive the ball on the half turn. You've got to be a top player who has played hundreds of games as a kid, looking over your shoulder.

"I've heard it said a number of times about full-backs being able to play in midfield before... 'he can play wide, he can play as a winger' – no they can't. That's why they're full-backs."

Chloe Kelly sealed another trophy for England as Brazil were beaten 4-2 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in the inaugural Women's Finalissima at Wembley on Thursday.

Ella Toone finished off a slick first-half move to give the Lionesses a deserve lead in the showdown between the European champions and the Copa America Femenina winners.

Brazil were the better side after the break and Andressa Alves capitalised on a stoppage-time mistake from goalkeeper Mary Earps to force spot-kicks.

England were not to be denied, though, as Georgia Stanway, Rachel Daly, Alex Greenwood and Kelly – who scored the winner in the Euro 2022 final against Germany at the same venue - converted from 12 yards out.

Earps denied Tamires before captain Rafaelle Souza rattled the crossbar as Brazil endured shootout agony in front of a huge crowd of 83.132.

The marauding Lucy Bronze caused the Canarinhas all sorts of problems in the first half and she played a big part in the opening goal in the 23rd minute.

Bronze played a one-two with Stanway before picking out Toone, who slotted home with her right foot from inside the penalty area in the 23rd minute as Brazil were cut open by England's sharp passing and movement.

Lauren James had a goal disallowed for offside with the Euro 2022 winners firmly on top, but it was a different story following the interval.

England gave Brazil every opportunity to get back into the game with a string of mistakes, one of which resulted in Earps palming a shot from Geyse high into the air and against the top of the crossbar.

Pia Sundhage's side continued to probe and they were rewarded when Earps spilled a cross from the right to gift Andressa an equaliser with time running out. 

With no extra time, England recovered from that setback to come out on top in the shootout, Toone the only Lionesses player who was unable to find the back of the net with her penalty before Kelly drilled in the winner to make it 30 games without defeat under Sarina Wiegman.

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