Roy Hodgson has named a bold, young England squad for Euro 2016 and John Stones says the group are “quietly confident” of going all the way.
It is now 50 years since World Cup glory and the Three Lions cross the Channel on Monday looking to return as champions of Europe.
Hodgson finalised his 23-man squad for this summer’s tilt at glory on Tuesday afternoon, with Andros Townsend and Danny Drinkwater joining the injured Fabian Delph in being cut from the enlarged provisional party.
The England manager will explain those decisions at a press conference this afternoon, when much of the focus is sure to fall on Marcus Rashford.
The decision to delay the squad announcement and choose a 26-strong group not only allowed the fitness of some key players to be assessed but the coaching staff to have a closer look at the 18-year-old Manchester United striker.
Having netted eight goals in 18 appearances after bursting on to the scene in late February, Rashford scored 138 seconds into Friday’s international debut and was named man of the match in the 2-1 friendly win against Australia.
Hodgson, Ray Lewington and Gary Neville clearly saw enough from the precocious striker, who was selected along with Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson despite concerns over the trio’s fitness.
Ryan Bertrand was included despite receiving treatment on a knock, but the Football Association is expecting the entire squad to be fit for England’s opener in Marseille, even if tomorrow’s final friendly against Portugal comes too soon.
Russia, Wales and Slovakia await in Group B when the tournament gets under way, with bookmakers pricing them fourth favourites to win the competition.
Hosts France, World Cup winners Germany and reigning champions Spain are the only nations considered to have better chances, with the fact England have recently beaten two of them giving centre-back Stones confidence.
“It’s tough because you don’t want to put pressure on it, but I’d like to think we’re among the contenders,” he told evertonfc.com.
“I’ve been saying we’re quietly confident to people, but obviously all the big teams will feel the same.
“We’ve beaten France and Germany since we qualified, which is a big boost and something that will hopefully stand us in good stead if we come up against them at any point.
“If you’re going to a Euros, you’re going there to win it, because what’s the point if not?
“We’re proud as players and we want to make the nation proud too.”
Hodgson’s men begin Group B against Russia in Marseille before taking on Wales in Lens on June 16 and travelling to St Etienne on June 20 to face Slovakia.