Trent Alexander-Arnold believes he seized on an opportunity to impress England manager Gareth Southgate when he starred in a midfield role against Malta last season and his “newfound excitement” about the position has left him targeting a starting berth at Euro 2024.

Despite a host of eye-catching appearances at right-back for Liverpool as they won the Premier League and Champions League, Alexander-Arnold found his pathway to the England side blocked by strong competition from the likes of Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James.

Southgate, though, wanted to give the marauding full-back a chance in midfield and, despite initially being criticised for doing so by club manager Jurgen Klopp, Alexander-Arnold has now started to operate in that role for Liverpool.

He could come into the England side that hosts Malta at Wembley on Friday night, with a number of other options missing through injury, and he is now listed as a midfielder when Southgate names his squad.

But it was the reverse fixture against Malta in June when Alexander-Arnold felt he had a chance to show what he could do in the middle of the park and he put on a fine show against the Group C minnows, scoring his second England goal in the process.

“I would say the Malta game was my best performance in an England shirt,” the 25-year-old said.

“It was one that I felt going into it that I had confidence. It was a big opportunity for me. I knew I needed to perform and I wanted to perform.

“I had spoken to the manager prior to the game, leading up to that camp specifically, about an opportunity and he explained to me there could be a potential opportunity in midfield going forward for me.

“When I heard those words, it ignited something within me. There was a chance for me to go out there and take it and I think that’s what I did. Hopefully I’ll be able to build on that.”

While he has made 287 appearances for Liverpool, Alexander-Arnold has just 21 senior England caps to date.

Now though, with Euro 2024 on the horizon, he wants to nail down a place in Southgate’s side and feels his new-look role gives him the best chance of doing so.

“Since we spoke in the summer, me and the manager, about a midfield opportunity and to see if we could make it work, there has been a newfound excitement for me,” he said.

“It is a huge opportunity and it is one I am grateful to have, but also making sure I take it. It still early days, I haven’t had much experience in there so I’m still learning on the job and it’s about picking it up as much as I can when I am in there.

“I’ve had some opportunities, I’ve had games, I’ve had minutes. But now I feel like there’s a real opportunity for me, especially in a role that I think will get the best out of me.

“Every game for me between now and the end of the season and any time I’m performing, it’s to earn a place to start in the Euros.”

Asked if going to the Euros as a midfielder was now a target, Alexander-Arnold added: “Massively so, it is something I think about often, it is something that motivates me.

“When I’m here, when I’m not here, I’m constantly thinking about trying to get into the team for the summer, how I can do that and how I can take the opportunities I’m given to make sure I’m part of the plans for the summer.

“It is a target I have set for myself and I think, with the help of the manager and the staff and analysts, it is something I can do.”

Lawrence Shankland headed a stoppage-time equaliser as Scotland averted more torment in Tbilisi with a 2-2 draw against Georgia.

The Hearts striker was a late call-up for the injured Che Adams and seized his chance when he headed home fellow substitute Stuart Armstrong’s cross two minutes into added time.

Scott McTominay earlier took his Euro 2024 qualifying campaign tally to seven goals when he cancelled out the first of two strikes from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The Napoli winger proved a threat all night, but Scotland contributed to their own problems with a slack first 45 minutes.

McTominay drilled home from 20 yards four minutes after the restart and, after quickly falling behind again, Scotland finished strongly to prevent a fourth consecutive defeat in Clarke’s 50th game in charge.

Scotland had lost on their two previous visits to the Boris Paichadze stadium, defeats which proved very costly in otherwise promising attempts to qualify for the European Championships of 2008 and 2016.

And, while Clarke’s side had booked their trip to Germany with two games to spare, they were looking to boost their chances of sealing a place among the pot two seeds for next month’s draw.

Georgia, who had only lost four of their previous 20 games, also had plenty to play for given they will be in the play-offs in March courtesy of their Nations League performances, and a crowd of 44,595 plus some needle on the pitch gave the game a competitive edge.

With Angus Gunn injured, Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark got the nod to start ahead of Motherwell’s Liam Kelly for his competitive international debut.

Scotland started with a back four amid the absence of Kieran Tierney, while the likes of Andy Robertson, Aaron Hickey and Grant Hanley were also missing.

There were early signs that Scotland were not quite at it, from the moment Scott McKenna launched the ball out of play from the kick-off.

Ryan Christie then scuppered a promising break by delaying and then over-hitting a pass outside to Callum McGregor.

Billy Gilmour set up McTominay with a clever low corner, but the Manchester United midfielder fired over first time.

Clark made his first save 13 minutes in when he gathered Giorgi Chakvetadze’s long-range drive but he was beaten two minutes later.

Greg Taylor failed to cut out a cross-field pass and wing-back Otar Kakabadze delivered a low first-time cross which Kvaratskhelia swept inside the near post after sliding in just ahead of Ryan Porteous.

Clark soon rescued Scotland with a good parry from Levan Shengelia after a poor pass from Lyndon Dykes, who atoned by blocking the subsequent shot.

Dykes headed off target from Gilmour’s free-kick as Scotland failed to trouble the home goalkeeper in the first half.

Too many passes were going astray and Scotland struggled to produce a telling delivery from several corners and crosses from the right flank.

Half-time changes seemed inevitable and Lewis Ferguson and Kenny McLean came on for Gilmour and Christie.

McLean was soon involved in the first equaliser. The Norwich midfielder collected Taylor’s pass and set up McTominay, whose strike seemed to wrongfoot the home keeper at his near post.

Clark made another good stop to deny Shengelia, this time from a free-kick.

But Georgia kept up the pressure and Kvaratskhelia restored their lead in the 57th minute when he cut inside Nathan Patterson and drilled into the far corner.

Dykes soon thought he had levelled with a near-post header from Patterson’s corner, but Giorgi Mamardashvili produced a brilliant diving save on the line.

Scotland continued to press, although most of their efforts were coming from long range.

Ferguson saw a header saved before Shankland rose to head into the top corner.

Clark put the seal on a satisfying night when he made a near-post stop in the dying seconds.

Sixteen-year-old Lamine Yamal was on target as Spain moved two points clear at the top of their European Championship qualifying group with a 3-1 victory over Cyprus.

Barcelona’s Yamal was one of three scorers for the visitors in the first half-hour in Limassol, with Mikel Oyarzabal and Joselu also on target.

Spain won the reverse fixture 6-0 but, although Cyprus remain without a point in Group A, they did score the only goal of the second half through Kostas Pileas in the 75th minute.

With Scotland only drawing against Georgia, Spain can clinch top spot in the group by beating the same opponents on Sunday.

Spain boss Luis de la Fuente gave another start to Yamal while Bayer Leverkusen’s Alejandro Grimaldo made his debut and Jesus Navas captained the side to mark his 50th cap.

Gavi came close to an opener in the second minute but the visitors were ahead less than five minutes in, with the ball falling to Yamal after good work from Joselu, and the teenager showing good skill before finding the bottom corner.

It was a second goal for the young Barcelona star, who also scored against Georgia earlier in the group stage.

Spain doubled their advantage in the 22nd minute, with Grimaldo playing in Oyarzabal, who finished coolly past the keeper. The flag was raised but a VAR check showed the forward had stayed onside and the goal was given.

Cyprus had a let-off when Martin Zubimendi hit a post but Spain only had to wait a couple more minutes for the third to arrive, this time Oyarzabal crossing for Joselu.

The visitors were dealt a costly blow five minutes before the break, though, when Real Sociedad’s Oyarzabal pulled up with an apparent calf injury and 23-year-old Rodrigo Riquelme came on for his debut.

David Raya in the Spain goal had had very little to do, and he dealt comfortably with a long-range effort from Grigoris Kastanos after a moment of concern.

Both teams made substitutions for the second half, with Aleix Garcia and David Garcia replacing Robin Le Normand and Mikel Merino for Spain, while Cyprus made three changes.

The two managers continued to shuffle their packs and there was little in the way of rhythm or chances until Cyprus scored just their third goal of the group stage.

Kastanos stole the ball and played a pinpoint pass behind the Spain defence for Pileas, who defeated Raya to give the fans in Limassol something to cheer.

Northern Ireland will play the penultimate match of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign away to Finland on Friday.

On their last visit to Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium, Northern Ireland earned a point from a 1-1 draw in October 2015 to secure top spot in their group as they qualified for Euro 2016, but the context is very different this time.

Michael O’Neill’s injury-hit side have won just two of their eight Euro 2024 qualifiers so far – both against San Marino – and will be happy to see the back of this campaign after Monday’s match at home to Denmark.

Here the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of Friday’s game.

The hits keep coming

Injuries have been a constant theme throughout a campaign in which Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas, Corry Evans and Shane Ferguson will not kick a ball.

But this week has seemed particularly cruel, with five players withdrawing – not least captain Jonny Evans and goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell – in the week since O’Neill named what was already an inexperienced squad last week.

It means 12 players are now out with injury, while Shea Charles is suspended for Friday’s match. O’Neill’s resources have never been more stretched than they are now.

Inexperience

With Paul Smyth, Paddy Lane and Brad Lyons joining Evans and Peacock-Farrell in pulling out of this trip, O’Neill has drafted in Ross McCausland, Caolan Boyd-Munce, Terry Devlin, Michael Forbes and Stephen McMullan.

All five are uncapped at senior level, while nine players in O’Neill’s squad have yet to reach double figures in caps.

Indeed, only Paddy McNair, Josh Magennis, George Saville, Jordan Thompson, Jamal Lewis and Conor Washington have more than 20 to their name. This is a very raw group.

A big opportunity for Hazard

With Peacock-Farrell out Conor Hazard is in line to start in Helsinki, the city where he enjoyed a loan spell in 2022, playing 39 games for HJK.

The 25-year-old will be up against plenty of familiar faces with four members of Finland’s squad – Arrtu Hoskonen, Pyry Peltola, Miro Tenho and Lucas Lingham – having been team-mates of his in the Finnish capital.

Hazard has made only one previous competitive appearance for Northern Ireland, last month in the 3-0 win over San Marino, although he played the full 90 minutes without needing to make a save.

But since then Hazard has lost the number one spot at Sky Bet Championship club Plymouth after Mike Cooper returned from nine months out with a ruptured ACL.

Signs of progress?

Despite everything that has gone wrong for Northern Ireland so far, O’Neill is adamant he has seen signs of progress in his side as he looks to develop young players who can spearhead future qualifying campaigns.

Players like Charles, Trai Hume and Isaac Price are starting to make their mark on this side and could now be considered contenders for regular playing time even within a fully-fit squad, while Daniel Ballard is emerging as a leader at the back.

But there is also frustration that players such as Conor Bradley, who could have really established himself over the past few months, have also been missing for most of the campaign with injury.

Saville’s big night

George Saville will take the armband for Friday’s match to mark the occasion the Millwall midfielder earns a landmark 50th cap.

The 30-year-old’s unfashionable role in midfield means has rarely been one to excite the Green and White Army during his international career, and while he may have scored a beauty against Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, he is yet to break his duck for Northern Ireland.

But with seasoned internationals in desperately short supply, Saville’s experience has rarely been more important to the team.

Wembley will remember Sir Bobby Charlton when Gareth Southgate’s England side play their first match since the 1966 World Cup winner’s death.

Heartfelt tributes have poured in since the jewel in the crown for club and country died at the age of 86 on October 21.

Charlton’s funeral was held at Manchester Cathedral on Monday and further tributes will be paid when England host Malta in a Euro 2024 qualifier at Wembley on Friday evening.

There will be a crowd mosaic and video celebrating the Manchester United and England great’s life before a pre-match ceremony and period of applause.

Players will wear black armbands in tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the sport.

England boss Southgate attended the funeral and last week said the Malta match would be a “celebration of life” that Charlton “absolutely deserves”.

“I think he is respected around the world and clearly our greatest ever player when you think of not only the World Cup, but also winning the European Cup and everything he did at club level,” Southgate said. “Very sad.

“We were fortunate to have met him a few times and incredibly humble, so our condolences with all his family.”

England face Malta at Wembley on Friday night with Euro 2024 qualification already sewn up but there are other issues that remain outstanding.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the main talking points ahead of the game.

Seeds of doubt

While a spot at next summer’s finals in Germany was assured with victory over Italy last month, Gareth Southgate’s side still have something to play for in the game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia.

Only the top-five best performing nations throughout the qualifying campaign will be top seeds for the draw in Hamburg next month.

Four points across both fixtures should be enough, while six would confirm England’s place in the first pot, so there is still something to play for on Friday.

Southgate’s own reshuffle on the cards?

While Southgate has continually stressed the need to finish Group C strongly to ensure the aforementioned top seeding, he will know England are heavy favourites going into Friday’s game.

Having initially picked a strong squad for the fixtures, he may yet decide to give some of his fringe players a chance to impress.

The likes of centre-backs Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori, for example, will be pushing to start in place of the injured John Stones, while Ollie Watkins will be keen for another chance to show he can be the man to provide the goals if captain Harry Kane is unavailable.

New kids on the block

While some squad players could feature, there is also a chance for a number of debutants to stake their claim for a late run into Southgate’s thoughts for his 23-man Euro 2024 squad.

Although not included in the original list of call-ups for the forthcoming games, Southgate has added a trio of uncapped players to the squad after injury withdrawals.

That means Aston Villa defender Ezri Konsa, Manchester City teenager Rico Lewis and Chelsea’s Cole Palmer could all make their senior bows against the minnows of Malta.

Can Trent bridge the gap to midfield?

Having burst on to the scene at Liverpool as an attacking right-back, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s attributes have long-seen him touted as a potential midfielder.

After struggling for minutes with England at full-back, Southgate played Alexander-Arnold in midfield in the reverse fixture in Malta and he starred with an eye-catching performance that included a fine goal.

Alexander-Arnold has since taken on more of a hybrid role at Liverpool, too, and is now listed on England’s squad sheet as a midfielder, so he may get another chance to shine there this time around.

Tributes to a 1966 great

The fixture against Malta is the first time England will have played since the death of Sir Bobby Charlton last month.

A 1966 World Cup winner who scored 49 goals in 106 caps, Charlton has been described as the greatest England player of all time, having also won the European Cup and three league titles at Manchester United.

Wembley will remember Charlton before the game on what will be an emotional moment for all those in attendance.

Scotland take on Georgia in their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier in Tbilisi on Thursday night.

Steve Clarke’s side have already qualified for Germany after winning five of their first six Group A games.

Here are some of the key talking points ahead of the game at the Boris Paichadze Stadium.

Pots not prizes

Scotland are highly unlikely to top the group given they sit on 15 points with Spain, who are seven goals better off and finish with games against Cyprus and Georgia. An unfortunate slip from Aaron Hickey late on in Seville last month led to a second Spanish goal and wiped out Scotland’s head-to-head advantage. However, good results against Georgia and Norway will boost Scotland’s hopes of landing in the second pot of seeds for next month’s Euro 2024 draw as well as regaining momentum after three consecutive defeats.

Breaking the spell

Scotland have twice come unstuck in Tbilisi before – their Euro 2008 and Euro 2016 campaigns suffered fatal blows against Georgia. Having beaten France home and away, Alex McLeish’s side lost 2-0 against a side featuring three teenagers, including 17-year-old goalkeeper Giorgi Makaridze and 17-year-old goalscorer Levan Mchedlidze. Gordon Strachan was also on the end of a defeat in Tbilisi as the hosts frustrated Scotland in a 1-0 win. Despite being unbeaten against qualification rivals Poland and Republic of Ireland, Scotland missed out on a play-off.

A chance to shine

Scotland are without about half a team of likely starters – Angus Gunn, Kieran Tierney, Grant Hanley, Hickey, Andy Robertson and Che Adams are all absent. The game could give the likes of Nathan Patterson, Greg Taylor, Anthony Ralston, the uncapped Josh Doig and late call-up Lawrence Shankland the chance to impress.

Who is in goal?

Clarke gave nothing away on who would replace Gunn, who has only conceded three goals in six qualifiers. Motherwell captain Liam Kelly and Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark are looking for their competitive debuts after both won their first caps in last month’s 4-1 friendly defeat by France. Rangers number two Robby McCrorie replaced Gunn in the squad.

Motivated opponents

Georgia cannot finish in the top two but they can still go to Euro 2024 through the Nations League play-offs. Willy Sagnol’s side were the top ranked team in Group C after winning emphatically away to Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and will take their place in the play-off tournament in March.

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente insists his side have plenty of room for improvement and they are not taking for granted their final Euro 2024 qualifiers against the weakest opponents.

Despite having secured qualification, along with Scotland, the games against Cyprus and Georgia still carry significance as they will decide who finishes top of Group A.

And if De La Fuente needed any extra incentive to stress the need not to be complacent, he was reminded of Spain’s shock 3-2 defeat to Cyprus 25 years ago.

“I get a chill when I think about it, it was bad news,” he told a press conference.

“The results of the past are the past, we want to look to the future and play all the games without half-measures.

“Experience tells me that any game can turn ugly and many times it is due to lack of concentration. Tomorrow that will not be the case.”

Spain’s only defeat in the current campaign came against the Scots, but they have won their other five and, boosted by the 6-0 win over Cyrus in September, have a superior goal difference.

“We now have two games against Cyprus and Georgia that are very important,” added De La Fuente in Limassol.

“This is more than a test, this has to help us be better than previous games. That is the goal, to be better every day.

“We have a lot of room for improvement, they are very good players with a great willingness to do so.

“In that medium term that will be the next Euros. We have to be mature to be able to compete at the highest level.”

Asked whether his team should be considered one of the Euro 2024 favourites, he said: “We work to be able to fight to win the tournament but there are some teams like Germany, France, Portugal or England that have the same level as us. Then, winning it is a matter of details.”

Cyprus coach Temuri Ketsbaia, whose side have scored just two goals in their seven successive defeats, is hopeful his players can find the motivation in their final match – despite being hammered 6-0 by the same opponents in September.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first day or the last. You always have to give your best when you play with the national team,” he said.

“I think that in another group we would have gotten more points, but we have had to play against a team with the potential of Spain or against candidates for the Ballon d’Or like (Erling) Haaland.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke is focused on finishing their Euro 2024 qualification campaign on a high after sealing their place in Germany amid a hat-trick of defeats.

A 2-0 loss in Spain was sandwiched by friendly defeats against England and France, but five wins from their opening five games in Group A proved enough for a second successive qualification for the European Championship finals after the Spaniards won in Norway.

With a five-month international hiatus to follow, Clarke is eager to ensure Scotland come away from their final competitive matches with points against Georgia and Norway before next summer’s tournament in Germany.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s clash in Tbilisi, Clarke said: “The idea with the friendly matches against England and France was to test ourselves against the best and see where we measure up.

“Obviously with the results we had, we still have a bit of work to do. We will try to stay humble, respect our opponents and just try to improve all the time.

“Listen, we want to get back to winning ways. It’s not very often in the reign that I have had, apart from the early stages, that we have had consecutive defeats like we have had recently.

“It would be nice to think in the remaining two games we can pick up more points.

“I have always said we want to get as high a points tally as possible and (we have) two more games to try and do that.”

Scotland have lost their previous two games in Georgia, defeats which ultimately prevented them from qualifying for Euro 2008 and 2016.

Clarke’s side have shown the ability to break such negative runs, for instance securing the first play-off success and ending a 23-year wait for a major tournament appearance.

“Listen, in sport what’s past is past, there is nothing we can do to affect that,” Clarke said of the history in Tbilisi. “All we can do is affect the future, the next game we play.

“We have always tried to improve results no matter who we are playing against.”

Georgia lost 7-1 at home to Spain in September but they beat Cyprus 4-0 in their most recent qualifier and are assured of a Euro 2024 play-off place thanks to a Nations League campaign which included big wins in Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

Clarke said: “When you go away from home against a team like Georgia, it’s going to be a difficult environment, a difficult game for us, because they are a very good side.

“The one game they lost heavily was against Spain and that’s a little bit of an anomaly in recent games, because all their games have been very competitive. And we expect that on Thursday night.”

Clarke is without the likes of Angus Gunn, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Aaron Hickey and Che Adams, but he hopes players such as Josh Doig and Lawrence Shankland can seize the opportunity that injury list presents.

“Over the course of my tenure I have always tried to look a little bit deeper,” he said.

“There will be some squads like this one where we have a number of players missing. But I always say it’s a chance for someone else.

“If everyone else can do better it makes my selection more difficult going into next year. The selection will be difficult. I have to find the right 23 for next summer.

“For now, some boys are in the squad with the chance to make a big impression, not just on me but the rest of my staff and the rest of the country. Let’s see how they perform in the game.”

Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark and Motherwell captain Liam Kelly are vying for competitive debuts after both played 45 minutes against France to win their first caps.

Clarke, who also has Rangers reserve Robby McCrorie in his squad, was not giving anything away on his stand-in choice.

Speaking from Scotland’s training camp in Antalya, Turkey, he said: “The three goalkeepers have trained very well, as they always do, and between now and kick-off I will obviously have to choose one.”

Wales newcomer Niall Huggins is ready to step onto the international stage after expressing fears that a mystery injury which left him with weak bones would end his career.

Huggins joined up with the senior Wales squad for the first time this week ahead of decisive Euro 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey after what the Sunderland defender called a “horrendous” period.

The 22-year-old made just a couple of league starts in his first two seasons at Sunderland after joining from Leeds in August 2021, with the full-back becoming increasingly concerned over his football future.

“The last two years have been horrendous, awful to be honest,” said York-born Huggins, whose father was born in Bangor.

“When I first joined Sunderland, I suffered an initial stress fracture in my back and that put me out for four or five months.

“I had the same sort of issue but in different places when I was doing my rehab and it was something we struggled to get to the bottom of.

“There was never a reason for why it was happening. All the tests we did, nothing ever seemed to stand out.

“It was just that the bones were weak, which made it tough.”

Asked if he felt his career was at risk at the time, Huggins said: “Yes, 100 per cent. It got to the point where every time I was doing the rehab, the first few steps back on the grass, it was always there in the back of my mind.

“I would think: ‘Is this going to happen again?’ And you do start to worry. The years are going by on the contract and you are worrying about it.

“When I did finally start to get fit, it helped so much mentally. But it is still hard to look back on.”

Huggins said the issue was eventually resolved by “having an injection every morning for three months”, strengthening his bones and allowing him to return to training.

But the physical demand of matches took a toll on his body, with muscular issues and a knee problem ruling him out until Sunderland’s Championship play-off games in May.

It has not been until this season that Huggins has been able to show the potential that persuaded Marcelo Bielsa to hand him a Premier League debut for Leeds at Arsenal in February 2021.

“It literally feels like I’m starting my professional career,” said Huggins, who has started 11 Sunderland games this term and scored his first senior goal – a Championship goal-of-the-month contender – against Watford in October.

“This is the first year where I can really show what I can do and what level I can play at. To have the call-up to the senior team shows that even more.

“It wasn’t even at the back of my mind, but it felt amazing.

“To represent a country feels unbelievable. It means as much to the lads who were born outside Wales as those born in the country and who have lived there for a long time.

“It just shows the culture that the set-up creates for the players. You can see how amazing the fans are and how much it means to the country to make it to the Euros.

“The previous results show how much the lads want to play for the badge, including the lads born in England – and me being one of them. I’m just excited to one day hopefully put on the shirt and play for the country.”

Fikayo Tomori is hoping England’s final two Euro 2024 qualifiers will present the “perfect opportunity” to spring a “stop-start” international career into life.

The 25-year-old AC Milan defender made his senior England debut in 2019 but has collected just four caps since, although he is yet to be part of a back line that has conceded a goal.

Now, for the first time, the former Chelsea youngster has been called up by Gareth Southgate for three successive squads.

 

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Harry Maguire and John Stones continue to be Southgate’s first-choice partnership at the heart of his defence but the latter will sit out the upcoming double-header against Malta and North Macedonia through injury.

That could open the door for Tomori, as well as Crystal Palace skipper Marc Guehi, to stake a claim for a more prominent role for England, especially with qualification for next summer’s Euros already achieved.

Asked how big the two upcoming games are for his own Euros chances, Tomori told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Very important. Obviously, the guys have gone through this kind of qualifying campaign really well and they managed to get us qualified early.

“So I think now that we have two games when we’ve already qualified, I think it’s a good chance for the players who probably haven’t played as much or who want to make a claim for the Euros.

“I think it’s the perfect opportunity. The last camp I managed to get a match, my first game at Wembley, which was nice. That’s a positive step in the right direction for me and hopefully this camp I can make another step and play in a qualifying game.

“Obviously John and Harry are really top players and they have been for him (Southgate) for a number of years.

“So, for me, I’m coming in and I’m just trying to push them as much as I can, show the manager what I can do.”

Tomori’s first steps on the international scene came with Canada – the country of his birth – when he represented their under-20s before switching his footballing allegiances to England.

After coming up through the ranks, he made his senior debut as a late substitute in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Kosovo.

He has since been capped once in 2021, 2022 and 2023 despite winning Serie A with AC Milan two seasons ago.

“I think it’s been a bit stop-start,” Tomori said of his England career to date.

“I think when I was 21 and I first got called up I made a few appearances off the bench… then after the Covid year I wasn’t paying as much, so obviously I wasn’t getting called up.

“Then I went to Milan and I’ve been in a few camps, out a few camps. But this season started off really well and I’ve have managed to play a few games and I’ve come to every camp.

“So yeah, it has started off well and now I just want to keep it going and play more games, get more caps.

“Most players will say once you come here, you want to stay here and when you get taste for it, you want to you want to keep building on it.

“Like I said, this season, I started off really well and this is my third successive camp. So I’m really, really happy with how things are going and I think now it’s just about staying consistent, trying to get into the next camp and the next camp and the next camp.”

Ezri Konsa was always confident his England chance would come.

The Aston Villa defender, who won the Under-20 World Cup in 2017 and also played for England Under-21s, has been brought into the senior set-up for the first time at the age of 26 for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta on Friday and North Macedonia next Monday.

Konsa was a late call-up alongside Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis on Sunday, after James Maddison, Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson withdrew due to injury.

He told a press conference on Tuesday: “I knew I had a lot to work on in my game. Only recently now, the last two seasons, we’ve excelled at Villa and that part of it has helped me become the player I am today.

“I knew my time would come, but it was just a matter of when. I was patient, and I’m proud and me and my family are really happy.

“I’ve always believed in myself, always backed myself. I’m really enjoying my football now at the moment and the rest is taking care of itself.”

Asked if he saw the Euros as a realistic target, Konsa said: “I think that’s every player’s target, to go to major tournaments and play for your country. So that’s definitely on my mind and definitely something I plan on doing.”

Konsa – who described talk in the past of him potentially switching allegiance to Portugal as “just rumours” – has been congratulated in a message on Instagram on his call-up by former England captain John Terry.

Terry, who worked with Konsa when a coach at Villa, wrote: “Congratulations @ezrikonsa. So happy for you mate, you have been excellent and so consistent over the last three years and fully deserve this. Enjoy it Ez…Just the start.”

And Konsa said: “It means a lot coming from a legend like John Terry.

“I worked with him for two years and he really helped my game. I used to ask him a lot of questions on how he was able to maintain playing at such a high level, and he gave me a lot of advice and I definitely took that on and it’s helped me become the player I am.

“He was in touch with me, sent me a nice little message. He just said congratulations, that I need to enjoy it and be myself.”

On the moment he received notification that Gareth Southgate had called him up, Konsa said: “I was driving home from the match on Sunday (Villa’s 3-1 win against Fulham) and me and the missus were talking about having a little break, going away – and then two minutes later I ended up getting the call!

“It was a weird feeling, it didn’t really sink in until I got home. I think my missus was crying a little bit, she was more excited that me. I’d rather be here anyway, so it’s fine.”

Midfielder Jude Bellingham and defender Levi Colwill are the latest pair to withdraw from the squad after they sat out games for Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively over the weekend with shoulder problems.

Southgate has resisted any temptation to bring in any other players to replace Bellingham and Colwill, leaving him with a 23-man squad for the home game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia.

England are already assured on their place at next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany but Southgate wants to be a top seed when the draw is made in Hamburg next month so victory in both games remains a key target.

Liam Cooper insisted Scotland are intent on doing themselves justice at Euro 2024 after failing to win a game in their last tilt at the tournament.

The Scots go into their concluding two qualifiers – away to Georgia on Thursday and at home to Norway on Sunday – having already qualified for the finals in Germany next summer.

Steve Clarke’s men suffered group-stage elimination at Euro 2020 – delayed until 2021 due to Covid – after taking just one point from three games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia.

Leeds defender Cooper – speaking from the Scots’ training base in Turkey ahead of Thursday’s match in Tbilisi – feels they will be better equipped this time to make it to the knockout phase.

“As professionals, I think we put that expectation on ourselves immediately after the last Euros,” he said. “I don’t think we did ourselves justice in that tournament.

“It was a lot of lads’ first taste of a major tournament, including myself, and straight after that we agreed among ourselves that we didn’t really do ourselves justice.

“We’ve got a lot of people, including ourselves, to prove to that we belong there and we can get through the group stages.

“We’ve got an honest bunch of lads and we hold ourselves accountable. We want to be satisfied with the way we performed. We’ve done well in this qualification campaign, to qualify with two games to spare is amazing, but it can’t stop there.

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“To be even more successful, we’ve got to go and do ourselves justice at the Euros. I’m lucky enough to have been at the last Euros, but if the goalposts don’t change once you’ve had a taste of that and you don’t want to go and improve on it next time, then there’s no point in you being here.”

Cooper admits it is a good feeling to go into the last two matches having already qualified but he is adamant the Scots will not be taking things easy over the next week, with top spot in Group A as well as a place in the squad for the finals at stake.

“It’s nice to have qualified with two games to spare, but there’s also that carrot there that if Spain drop points, we can go and win the group,” said the 32-year-old. “That’s our motivation right now. We’ve got to be professional and take our chance if Spain slip up.

“We’ve only got this camp and the next camp to get ourselves in the manager’s thoughts and get in the squad for Germany so that’s also added motivation. We’ve got to put ourselves forward and prove we should be on that plane to Germany.

“I had a taste of that before and it was an amazing experience albeit in difficult times for the world (due to Covid). There were limited people in the stadium so you didn’t get the full experience.

“It was still an amazing experience but I think the Euros next summer will be unbelievable. It’s something you always dream of as a kid so you’ve got to do all you can by playing well and being successful in these next couple of games and into the March camp as well.”

Excitement is building among the Scotland support and players ahead of the draw for the Euros group stage on December 2.

“We’re obviously buzzing for that,” said Cooper. “We can then get booked and our friends and families can start getting booked up.

“It’s been a bit of a nightmare not knowing where we’ll be playing, every person I’ve spoken to has booked about 20 hotels on free cancellation so it will be nice to know where we’re going to be based.

“Once all the logistics of it are sorted out then you can really start to look forward to it. But we’re professionals and we understand there’s a lot of football to be played before then and there’s still a big decision to be made by the manager (regarding squad selection) so there will be no getting too carried away.”

Jude Bellingham and Levi Colwill are the latest pair to withdraw from England’s squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.

Both Real Madrid midfielder Bellingham and Chelsea’s Colwill sat out their club games over the weekend with shoulder problems and have pulled out of the camp for the final two Group C fixtures.

“Jude Bellingham and Levi Colwill will play no part in England’s forthcoming UEFA EURO 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia,” an England squad update read.

“The pair arrived at St George’s Park for assessments on Monday but will now return to their clubs to continue their rehabilitation.

“Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips will meet up later this week owing to personal matters.”

Their withdrawals follow in the wake of James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk being replaced on Monday, with the trio all staying with their respective clubs for treatment.

Three newcomers were called into the England senior set-up by manager Gareth Southgate in light of Monday’s news with Ezri Konsa, Rico Lewis and Cole Palmer stepping in.

Southgate, though, has resisted any temptation to bring in any other players to replace Bellingham and Colwill, leaving him with a 23-man squad for the home game against Malta and the trip to North Macedonia.

England are already assured on their place at next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany but Southgate wants to be a top seed when the draw is made in Hamburg next month so victory in both games remains a key target.

Gareth Southgate believes he has the best striker in world football in captain Harry Kane – but admits the Bayern Munich forward would benefit from ending his career-long trophy drought.

Kane has been in scintillating form since moving to Germany from Tottenham in the summer, scoring 19 goals in 15 games for the Bundesliga giants.

He is the record goalscorer for both England and Spurs but has yet to win any major honours during his career.

Kane’s debut for Bayern was in a Super Cup defeat to RB Leipzig while a shock loss to third-tier Saarbrucken in the DFB-Pokal has also dented his chances.

But Bayern currently sit second in the league as they aim for a 12th consecutive title and also boast a 100 per cent record in their Champions League group.

Heading into next summer’s Euros, hosted in Germany, Southgate believes Kane would profit from breaking his trophy duck.

“I think clearly it’s a missing piece for him at the moment,” he said.

“I’m sure if you spoke to all our guys who have won trophies it changes how you view yourself.

“It isn’t going to change what we think he is capable of and isn’t going to change his talent. But in terms of his mindset and how he will feel I’m sure that’s something he will benefit from.

“Any player wants to win trophies, that’s what we are all geared to. He is of course proud of his individual awards but if you talk to him he wants to win something with his club or his country. That’s how he is driven, like they all are.”

Kane enjoyed a prolific spell at Spurs having come up through the ranks with the Premier League club but has taken his game to new heights since opting to leave for the continent in the summer.

Alongside fellow export Jude Bellingham – who is starring for Real Madrid after joining from Borussia Dortmund – Southgate feels he has an unrivalled pairing.

“I think on form it would be hard to beat them,” he said.

“I’m trying to think of everybody’s strike force, to be fair, and see what others have got. But the long and short of it is we’re really happy. We love the pair of them.

“They’re a handful, but also with the wide players we have who have to work for the team as well, the balance of everything at the moment is good.

“It’s great. We want good players who are playing well. I mean, we’re not the only ones with good players playing well, Portugal looks very, very strong. France is obviously very, very strong.

“But you want, ideally, to be going in as one of the favourites and that’s a position over the last couple of tournaments that we’ve been in and that’s where we want to be.

“So, for us it’s brilliant that they’re playing well, it is a bit early for us! But it’s great that you can see the level of the boys and the confidence that they’ll be getting from playing at big clubs in Europe.

“They’ll have a broader feel of where everything sits and perhaps the lads that have only played in England as well.”

Asked if Kane had gone up a level since making the move to Bayern, Southgate added: “His football has always been really good. What’s brilliant for him is he’s taken on a new challenge, a fresh life if you like.

“He’s moved to a big club abroad, which isn’t straightforward, but he’s adaptable unbelievably well. So I think the confidence he will take from that will be enormous.

“It struck me driving home from our last game, we were understandably talking about Jude but Kane had scored two, his overall performance was incredible and looking at the sheet, (his) caps and goals is staggering, really.

“So there is a risk we really underestimate what we’ve got and what we’ve had for the last few years because any team, any country would love him as their number nine.

“It’s not just his ability to score goals. His creative play, his passing, his hold-up play. And I think he’s pressing and working for the team as well as any stage of his career.

“So he really has relished the leadership, the captaincy, loves playing for England, never misses out – touch wood. So he really is a top level player.”

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