Pickford And Gordon Set For Hectic England Programs

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Jordan Pickford is poised to add to a 43-England-cap collection after the Everton goalkeeper was included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for a quartet of Nations League fixtures next month.

The 28-year-old Pickford had a stellar club campaign following his significant role in England’s progress to last summer’s European Championship final.

It has been a quiet 2022 on the international front, with manager Southgate’s team limited to only two friendly encounters back in March.

All that is about to change, with England preparing for four games in 10 days from 4 June, and a September double-header completing the Three Lions’ Nations League group matches.

Southgate and his players will additionally have their attention fixed on the World Cup in Qatar, where England begin their campaign against Iran on 21 November.

For now, however, it is the relatively new tournament taking center stage. England, semi-finalists in the inaugural 2019 competition, share a group with their European final nemesis Italy and the dangerous pair of Germany and Hungary.

Undisputed number one Pickford, who has 21 clean sheets for his country, can expect regular action in an unforgiving format, with only the winners of the four-team pool reaching next summer’s Nations League finals competition.

England launch their qualification quest against Hungary in Budapest on Saturday 4 June.

They go to Munich three days later, on Tuesday 7 June, to renew their rivalry with the Germany team England eliminated from Euro 2020.

Southgate’s side return home for back-to-back fixtures at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Molineux Stadium.

Italy are the visitors on Saturday 11 June for a rerun of that European final won by manager Roberto Mancini’s team following a penalty shootout.

England contest the return Hungary clash on Tuesday 14 June.

Pickford, who made his England debut in November 2017, five months after transferring from Sunderland to Everton, could, therefore, potentially race to 47 caps in the space of 10 very busy days.

The Wearsider’s Clubmate Anthony Gordon is braced for a similarly breathless few weeks following the 21-year-old’s inclusion in an England Under-21 squad for four European Championship qualifying fixtures in June.

Everton forward Gordon, who marked his debut for Lee Carsley’s team with a pair of quickfire goals against Czech Republic back in November, has four caps for his country Under-21 team.

And he could conceivably double that haul inside 10 days, as England complete their qualification program.

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Manager Carsley’s side go to Czech Republic for a pivotal-looking match on Friday 3 June.

The Czechs boast a three-point advantage over England at the Group G summit – but have played eight games to the Young Lions’ six.

England host fourth-placed Albania at Chesterfield’s Technique Stadium on Tuesday 7 June, then go to Kosovo on Friday 10 June.

The last of four matches in a condensed period – and closing fixture of a 10-team group – is against Slovenia, third in the table, at the John Smith’s Stadium home of Championship play-off finalists Huddersfield Town on Monday 13 June.

Nine qualifying group winners advance to next summer’s European Championship finals in Romania and Georgia.

The best performing second-placed team also qualifies directly for the tournament, with eight remaining runners-up paired off in four two-legged play-off games.

Nathan Patterson, meanwhile, is selected in the Scotland party for a World Cup play-off semi-final tie with Ukraine on 1 June.

Everton full-back Patterson has been sidelined with an ankle problem since early April and the Scots’ manager Steve Clarke concedes it is “doubtful” the 20-year-old will figure at Hampden Park.

Scotland and Ukraine are vying to face Wales in Cardiff on 5 June for the right to join England’s World Cup group in the Middle East.

Patterson, who has eight national team caps, and one Everton appearance following a winter transfer from Rangers, could potentially feature in his country Nations League fixtures next month, too.

Clarke’s side play Armenia home and away, on 8 June and 14 June respectively, those matches sandwiching a trip to Dublin to tackle Republic of Ireland on 11 June.

Wales, who fine-tune for their World Cup qualifying decider in a Nations League game in Poland on 1 June, will be without Nathan Broadhead for a loaded summer program.

The Everton forward, who gained promotion from League One on loan with Sunderland last term, received his first full international call after scoring 13 goals in 27 appearances on Wearside.

But injury has forced the 24-year-old’s withdrawal from a squad also set for a pair of Nations League meetings with Holland, on 8 and 14 June, either side of a home game against Belgium in the same competition on 11 June.

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