Euro 2020 squads expanded from 23 players to 26 to ease fitness concerns amid Covid-hit season

Dan Kilpatrick
·2-min read
<p>Gareth Southgate will be permitted to name an expanded England squad for Euro 2020</p> (Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate will be permitted to name an expanded England squad for Euro 2020

(Getty Images)

England will be able to name a 26-man squad for this summer's European Championship after Uefa's national teams committee recommended an expansion from 23 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on players.

The news increases the options available to Gareth Southgate but the England manager has previously said he is not "100 per cent" in favour of being able to name an expanded squad.

The recommendation, which is expected to be rubber-stamped by Uefa’s executive committee later this week, is good news for the likes of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, increasing the chances Southgate will pick a "wildcard" in his squad.

Bellingham is just 17 but has impressed for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and Champions League, while Grealish was considered a shoo-in earlier in the season but has been absent since February with a shin injury, casting doubt on his place.

It also raises the possibility that Southgate could hand another chance to the likes of Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold or Leicester's James Maddison, who have been missing from recent squads.

Watch: Wembley to host extra Euro 2020 game

However, the England manager has previously talked up the challenge of naming just 23 players and said at the start of April that he was not behind calls to expand squads.

“Covid could play a part but there is a skill to picking 23 and it means you’ve got to make good decisions and important decisions," Southgate said.

"Some of that can be lost as you get an extended group so let’s see how that develops but I’m not 100 per cent for that, I have to say.”

Uefa, however, is wary of the possibility of a Covid-19 outbreak at the finals and the increased workload on players caused by the truncated season.

The governing body has already confirmed that teams will be allowed to make five substitutions rather than three during matches.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has been among those calling for the change, saying last month: “I think it’s something that’s needed.

“It would match the changes that have been made in the current situation in world football, with the five substitutions, the uncertainty of the pandemic attack and the extra level of injuries, I think it would be a good thing to do.”

Italy coach Roberto Mancini has also expressed concern about the possibility of a Covid outbreak during the continent-wide tournament, saying in March: "You never know what will happen. What if someone tests positive for Covid?"

Watch: England are seeking to win Euro 2020, says Gareth Southgate

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