Uncapped Liverpool teenager Trent Alexander-Arnold was the surprise inclusion in an England World Cup squad manager Gareth Southgate said “we can be excited about”.
Alexander-Arnold, who has impressed in Liverpools run to the Champions League final, was characteristic of a youthful England squad which includes only five players from the Three Lions last trip to a World Cup.
Chelseas Ruben Loftus-Cheek beat the more experienced Jack Wilshere and in-form Jonjo Shelvey to a central midfield place following a successful season on loan at Crystal Palace. He was one of six players aged 23 and under alongside John Stones, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Alexander-Arnold.
“I believe this is a squad which we can be excited about,” said Southgate.
Read more: Southgate's 23-man squad in full
“It is a young group, but with some really important senior players, so I feel the balance of the squad is good, both in terms of its experience, its character and also the positional balance.
“The selection process has been over months really, its not just been the last few weeks. We feel the team are improving and we want to continue that momentum.
“The first call up for Trent Alexander-Arnold is well deserved. When we pick young players, its not just because they are young, its because their performances deserve it.”
At 32 and with 58 caps, Gary Cahill is the most experienced member of a squad with an average age of 25.5 and 20 caps on average.
Having returned to the Chelsea first-team after he was left out of Southgates squad for the March friendlies against Italy and Holland, Cahill was recalled at the expense of Burnleys James Tarkowski who was one of five players on the standby list along with Bournemouths Lewis Cook, West Broms Jake Livermore, Burnleys Tom Heaton and Liverpools Adam Lallana.
Southampton left-back Ryan Bertrand and West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart, both of whom featured prominently in recent squads named by Southgate, were left out altogether.
“Ryan and Joe have played a lot over the last two years so theyre not decisions we took lightly,” said Southgate.
“I couldve had easier conversations by keeping them involved. With Joe, weve got three other goalkeepers who have had very good seasons and the decision I was faced with was do I keep Joe in and have experience around the group? Or give the three guys who have basically had a better season a chance? We felt the players all needed to be in on merit after their performances this season.”