Chelsea ace Reece James is set to miss out on a place in England’s World Cup squad after Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate reportedly called him to tell him his dream of playing at the Qatar tournament was over. The right-back has been out of action since being forced off the pitch with a knee injury during the Blues’ Champions League victory over AC Milan in Italy a month ago.
James had been widely tipped to nail down the right-back berth in the Middle East as England go in search of World Cup glory for the first time since 1966. But the 22-year-old landed awkwardly just after the hour mark at the San Siro – and he has been out of action ever since.
According to The Sun, James has been told that he could be fit by the end of the month after his latest scan. But Southgate has decided he isn’t willing to take a risk on the player’s fitness, and delivered his bad news in person via a phone call.
James had been in scintillating form for his club this season before his injury blow and had bagged two goals and two assists in 11 appearances in all competitions. The player has enjoyed a meteoritic rise to the top of the game over the last few years and starred in the Champions League final in 2021 as Chelsea defeated Manchester City to lift the trophy.
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James made his England debut against Wales just over two years ago and was part of the squad that reached the Euro 2020 final before losing to Italy. But he has been restricted to just 15 appearances for his country after being forced to battle with the likes of Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold for the right-back spot.
Despite featuring in just one of the Three Lions’ Euro 2020 matches, James has been favoured by Southgate in recent months and has started his country’s last four clashes. And hours before James’ World Cup dream was ended, Chelsea boss Graham Potter revealed Blues medics had been in regular contact with England staff and added: “Reece was outside having a jog. It is just about how he responds. We know he is pretty optimistic about it – but in this situation you need to be.”
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James will have to watch the tournament from home without playing a role, with out-of-favour right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold now likely to secure a place in Southgate’s squad.
The World Cup gets underway on Sunday, November 20 as hosts Qatar take on Ecuador. England play their first match against Iran a day later, before taking on the USA and Wales in their other group games.