England have everyone in contention for their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia with Luke Shaw possibly able to appear from the bench, Gareth Southgate has revealed.

The Three Lions begin their fourth – and possibly final – major tournament under Southgate on Sunday, taking on Serbia in their first match in Group C in Gelsenkirchen.

Their preparations have been far from ideal, with Harry Maguire missing the tournament due to a calf injury and fellow centre-back John Stones battling a knock and illness.

Luke Shaw, meanwhile, has not played since February due to a hamstring problem, and was thought unlikely to feature until England's third group game against Slovenia.

However, Southgate has confirmed the Manchester United left-back is in contention to make the bench for Sunday's game, with Stones and the rest of his team-mates fully fit.

"Everyone is available. We have a decision whether Luke is a possible to use from the bench or not but everyone has trained today and is available," Southgate said on Saturday.

England are playing at an 11th edition of the Euros, racking up more games at the tournament (38) than any other team has managed without winning it.

As Southgate looks to end 58 years of hurt at major tournaments, he is breaking the competition down into a series of short-term targets.

"I'm hugely excited," he said. "To lead your country into a major tournament is an amazing honour. I'm very privileged. It's as exciting as it was ahead of Russia, if not more so. 

"In terms of our standing, you've seen Germany and Spain, there are a lot of good teams in this tournament. 

"We firstly have to progress through the group and then there's the opportunity to go further. Our focus is on qualifying from the group.

"When you’re trying to achieve exceptional things, you have to break it down into manageable chunks and the first priority is to get out of the group and work from there."

While many have written Serbia off ahead of the match, head coach Dragan Stojkovic is convinced his side are ready for the challenge of facing a tournament favourite.

"We should have maximum concentration and the quality at the maximum level, and I would not make a difference between the first, second or the third match, each of those matches are of extraordinary importance," Stojkovic told reporters.

"We know that we are starting against one of the favourites playing against England, but we have really done a lot to prepare as best as possible. 

"Trust me, they [the players] can hardly wait for the match to start, because physically and tactically at the same time, I am convinced that we are ready to face the challenges that come with England."

Juventus midfielder Filip Kostic has been ruled out of Serbia's Euro 2024 qualifier against Montenegro with an Achilles injury.

The 30-year-old played a full part in Friday's 2-0 win over Lithuania and set up Dusan Tadic's early opener.

But Kostic will not be available against Montenegro at Podgorica City Stadium on Monday, having returned to his club side for treatment.

"It's bad news for us," Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic said at Sunday's pre-match press conference. "He left the team because he has Achilles tendinitis.

"There is no need to take any risks with him. The decision was to return to the club. I'm always sorry when a player gets injured – there's nothing worse for a coach."

Juventus will hope to have Kostic available for a busy run of fixtures when they return to action later this week.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have nine games in April across three competitions, starting with Saturday's Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona at the Allianz Stadium.

Kostic has played in 38 of Juve's 39 matches this season – only Danilo has featured as regularly – and has a team-high 11 assists to go with his three goals.

Dragan Stojkovic was made to rue Serbia's injury problems after their defeat by Brazil, believing they could have mounted a greater challenge with a fully-fit squad.

The Eagles went down 2-0 against the five-time World Cup winners in their opening match at the finals, with Richarlison's second-half double settling the Group F clash at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Having just returned from a foot injury, Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to register a single shot on goal, while Dusan Vlahovic appeared from the bench after recently recovering from a groin problem, and winger Filip Kostic was an unused substitute due to muscular issues.

Stojkovic believes his side felt the consequences of having three key players lacking fitness.

"One of the factors [in Serbia's performance] that was quite surprising for me was the physical factor," he said. "We simply could not recognise our team.

"In the second half, we fell physically, and we were no longer a team. Of course, Brazil knew how to take advantage of this because they have excellent players, and they punished us.

"We have three key players who are injured, it's too much for us. We are not Brazil with 200 million people, we are a very small country. They got injured just before the World Cup, so it's really unlucky.

"Tonight, we would have a different scenario if my players were healthy, but there’s no shame to lose against Brazil.

"It would be a completely different story, 100 per cent, but they are not ready and that’s the way it is."

Serbia have now lost eight of their 10 World Cup matches since 2006, with only Australia (nine) registering more defeats during that time.

Stojkovic's side will look to respond when they face Cameroon on Monday, before concluding their Group G campaign against Switzerland four days later.

Brazil begin their Qatar 2022 campaign against Serbia as tournament favourites and with high hopes, but head coach Tite accepts lessons must be learned from recent failures.

The Selecao have won a record five World Cups, though not since 2002 – when beating Germany 2-0 in the final – have they lifted the most famous trophy of them all.

Since then, Brazil have reached the semi-final only once and have suffered three quarter-final exits, including four years ago at the hands of Belgium.

But as Tite becomes the first manager to lead Brazil into successive World Cups since Tele Santana in the 1980s, the experienced coach is hopeful of a better outcome this time.

"I know more how to focus my attention now," he told The Guardian, reflecting specifically on his side's 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening game of Russia 2018.

"I was also naive and inexperienced. I told my players not to complain about refereeing against Switzerland because of VAR, but there was a foul on our player.

"If and when it happens again, you need to respectfully complain and speak to the referee. We did this against Ecuador that year. We have learned."

Brazil are the only team to have taken part in every single World Cup since its original edition in 1930, with this being their 22nd appearance in the global showpiece.

The South American giants are unbeaten in their past 15 group matches, winning 12, and have topped their pool in each edition since 1982.

 

Serbia are first up for Brazil at Lusail Stadium on Thursday in Group G, which also includes Switzerland and Cameroon.

As an independent nation, Serbia have been eliminated in the group stage in all three World Cup appearances, but they qualified this year unbeaten in their eight qualifiers.

Question marks remain over the fitness of a number of key players, such as Sasa Lukic, Filip Kostic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, with the latter having not played in nearly a month.

"I sincerely hope they will be ready," head coach Dragan Stojkovic told reporters. "But what will happen until the game, I don't know. Everything is done so that they are ready. 

"Motivationally and psychologically, there are no problems. We haven't wanted to risk their fitness so far. We will do everything to ensure everyone is in gear and ready."

Brazil have won each of their two previous encounters with Serbia, including their group-stage fixture at the last World Cup when prevailing 2-0.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brazil - Neymar

Entering what is his third and – in his own words – possibly final World Cup, Neymar needs just three goals to surpass Pele as Brazil's all-time leading goalscorer.

While the Selecao have fallen short in his two participations, the in-form Paris Saint-Germain forward can be pleased with his own output, having scored six goals and assisted two.

In fact, since his World Cup debut on home soil in 2014, Neymar has been directly involved in 42 per cent of his side's 19 goals in the competition.

Serbia - Aleksandar Mitrovic

If Serbia are to pull off a big upset then they will need to have their star players available, not least prolific striker Mitrovic.

The Fulham man scored eight goals in eight matches on the road to Qatar – a goal tally only Memphis Depay and Harry Kane (both 12) could better in European qualifiers.

Mitrovic has also been in superb form at club level this campaign, scoring nine goals in 12 Premier League outings to sit fourth in the Golden Boot race.


PREDICTION

Serbia have lost seven of their nine World Cup games and have been handed an extremely difficult opener, but they showed in qualifying they are a tough side to beat.

Stats Perform's AI supercomputer prediction model gives Stojkovic's side a 14.3 per cent chance of defeating Brazil.

Victory for the Selecao has a 65.6 per cent chance likelihood of happening, meanwhile, and a draw is predicted at 20.1 per cent.

Aleksandar Mitrovic is back training with Serbia and out of pain after his foot injury, as his country hope he will be fit to feature against Brazil on Thursday.

Mitrovic scored the goal to send Serbia to the World Cup, heading home in the 90th minute against Portugal in November 2021 to clinch top spot in their qualifying group and an automatic place in Qatar.

But Mitrovic, who has scored 50 goals in 76 games for his country, missed Fulham's final game before joining up with Serbia due to a foot issue.

Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic previously joked Mitrovic would go to the World Cup "without a leg", and he had a positive update on the striker's fitness ahead of their opener with pre-tournament favourites Brazil in Group G.

"Mitrovic has been working with the team," Stojkovic told reporters. "He's out of pain where he was injured, that's obviously good news."

However, Stojkovic was more pessimistic over the availability of Juventus' Filip Kostic, saying: "Kostic has muscle problems and it's doubtful.

"I want to be very honest, I have nothing to hide."

Following Thursday's meeting with Brazil, Serbia will take on Cameroon on Monday before facing Switzerland four days after that.

Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic insisted there is no limit to what the country can achieve after they qualified for the 2022 World Cup in dramatic fashion.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in the 90th minute to break Portugal's hearts as Serbia reached next year's showpiece tournament in Qatar thanks to a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Group A on Sunday.

Portugal only required a draw to earn automatic qualification and Cristiano Ronaldo's men were on track after Renato Sanches and Dusan Tadic traded first-half goals in Lisbon.

However, Serbia dominated and were rewarded when substitute Mitrovic headed home late as Portugal were relegated to the play-offs.

"We have no limit, we will analyse everything after this, and we did everything we did perfectly," Stojkovic said post-game.

"We showed in the end that we are better. We have the potential for much bigger things."

Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2020 following a disappointing play-off defeat to Scotland.

Mitrovic – Serbia's all-time leading scorer – said: "I don't know what to say. I would cry and laugh at the same time. 

"Great victory, we came to Portugal to play football, to win. We were better, outplayed the opponent and deservedly celebrated."

Serbia captain Tadic, who equalised in the 33rd minute to cancel out Sanches' early opener, praised the impact of Stojkovic.

Stojkovic was appointed in March, replacing under-fire boss Mladen Krstajic.

"There are a lot of emotions at the moment and everyone is very happy and satisfied," Tadic added. "Since [Stojkovic] came, I think that a smile has returned and that we are playing beautiful football, which we showed today. 

"We showed that we can come to Portugal to dominate and win. I think that everyone who wears this coat of arms and who is a citizen of this country should be very happy and proud."

"Serbia should go to the World and European Championships continuously," Tadic said. "I hope that [Stojkovic] will stay for a long time and that Serbia will go to big competitions all the time."

Cristiano Ronaldo said he will "never change" following his angry outburst after the Portugal captain was denied a dramatic late winner in contentious circumstances against Serbia.

Ronaldo was convinced his last-gasp effort crossed the line, but the officials gave the all clear as 10-man Serbia rallied from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.

Stefan Mitrovic made back-to-back goal-line clearances to thwart Portugal in stoppage time, though Ronaldo was left fuming as the superstar was adamant his effort crossed line in Belgrade, where there was no VAR in place to review the decision.

Ronaldo was booked for his protestations before he angrily threw his captain's armband on the floor and walked off the field with just seconds remaining.

Afterwards, Ronaldo used Instagram and social media to discuss the controversial incident away to Serbia in the Group A showdown.

"Being captain of the Portugal team is one of the greatest pride and privileges of my life," Ronaldo wrote. "I always give and will give everything for my country, that will never change.

"But there are difficult times to deal with, especially when we feel that an entire nation is being punished. Lift your head and face the next challenge now! Come on, Portugal!"

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos revealed "embarrassed" referee Danny Makkelie apologised post-match in the Serbian capital.

"The referee apologised to me in the booth and told me he was embarrassed," Santos said during his news conference. "I was in the dressing room with him and he apologised to me. He had told me on the pitch that he was going to see the images and that if it was the case he was calling me to apologise ... and so it was.

"It is the second time in a qualifying phase that they apologise after the game ... I told him on the field that such a test there is no VAR or goal line ... Incidentally, one of the things he told me was that the goal line was important… but I told him that the ball was half a metre inside the goal. There was no obstacle between the goalkeeper and the goal line.

"We have to rethink. The referees are human and make mistakes, but that's why there is the VAR and the goal-line technology to avoid this."

The result left Serbia and Portugal level on four points atop Group A, one point ahead of Luxembourg through two matchdays.

On the incident, Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic added: "I never comment on referee's decisions whether they go our way or not. Mistakes by officials are part of the game and should be viewed as such. I didn't see it clearly, I can only pass a verdict after I've seen the replay.

"Ronaldo is a great player but we largely contained him tonight and in the second half we showed true grit and character to fight back from two goals down.

"We always knew what to expect from a top team like Portugal but against such opposition you have to be brave and never give up. This group of players is quickly learning that."

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