England manager Gareth Southgate insists nobody can take their place in his World Cup squad for granted.
Southgate’s side stepped up their preparations for the World Cup with a 3-0 win against Ivory Coast in Tuesday’s friendly at Wembley.
He made 10 changes from Saturday’s friendly victory over Switzerland to take a closer look at some of the fringe players hoping to secure a seat on the plane to Qatar in November.
Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings, both far from certain to make the World Cup squad, boosted their cases with goals against Ivory Coast.
Watkins could serve as an understudy to Harry Kane up front, while Mings is a candidate for central defensive cover.
Southgate expects the intense competition for places to fuel the desire of those seeking to make his final squad.
“They can all get on with it and fight it out amongst themselves and we’ll pick the ones that are playing at the best level and who can do the job,” Southgate said.
“We’re in a fortunate position that we do have good players. You can motivate players as a manager, but there’s no higher motivation than two more on the bench that can come and take your place.
“That’s how the big clubs work and we’re starting to get that competition in most positions on the field.
“We’re always open minded, we’re always assessing, we’re watching them every week, we see the positive qualities and we see the little bits that, ‘OK, how can we improve that a little bit?’.
“Without a doubt, none of the players in the squad can sit and think they’re in the 23, 26 or in the 11. They’ve all got to keep playing well and keep pushing each other.”
England will discover their World Cup group stage opponents on Friday when the draw is made in Doha.
Southgate guided England to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago in Russia and then suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat against Italy in the European Championship final last year.
He acknowledges those recent near misses have raised expectations.
“It’s a tournament that we all watched as kids, we all filled our wallcharts out, we all hoped and followed when England were there that we would do well,” Southgate said.
“And it’s a unique chance to make history, so that of course is massively exciting.”