Keane Relishing Chance For Three Lions Success

Michael Keane is anticipating a “special” week with England when Gareth Southgate’s side bids for Nations League success next month.

Keane was included in manager Southgate’s final 23-man squad for the tournament, announced on Monday, with England set to tackle Holland in a semi-final encounter on June 6.

The Everton player has started his country’s past two matches. And Keane admits his confidence was swelled by figuring in those European Championship qualifying games against Czech Republic and Montenegro.

He will vie with fellow centre-halves Harry Maguire, John Stones and Joe Gomez for a starting spot in Portugal.

Keane’s prominent national team role represents a significant leap forward for the defender. The 26-year-old had drifted out of England contention before a resurgence under club boss Marco Silva led to his recall following a 13-month exile back in November.

He played 33 Premier League matches for Everton last term and was impeccable in helping his side record eight clean sheets in their final 11 games – a period in which Everton amassed 21 points.

“I am massively excited about going away with England and I can’t wait to be part of it because I think it will be special,” Keane told 

“And it is a great chance for us to win something.

“It will be a great few weeks and, hopefully, we can produce for the country.

“I got back in the England team early in the season, then had a bit of a dip in form.

“But I managed to pull myself back and it was huge for me to play the past two games.

“That gave me so much confidence.

“I have to keep doing the things I have been for Everton lately. Then, you never know, I might get a chance to start against Holland.”

England will face Holland for the right to meet either Portugal or Switzerland in a Porto final on June 9 – when the winners will be crowned inaugural Nations League champions.

The Three Lions progressed from a premium qualification group featuring Spain and a Croatia team which defeated England in the semi-final of last year’s World Cup.

Keane views that Russian campaign – when England reached the last four for only the third time and first since 1990 – as the first step on a prosperous road for the national team.

And the centre-back’s view is supported by the changes progressively implemented by Southgate over the past 12 months.

Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi – missing from the Nations League finals with an Achilles injury – have spearheaded a fresh breed of talent introduced to the fold in 2018-19.

“It is very exciting at the moment,” said Keane, who is joined in the England party by Everton's 17-cap goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

“The World Cup started the process but we’ve seen the impact made by those new players coming in to the squad.

“The likes of Hudson-Odoi and Sancho who are 18 and 19 years old felt right at home and showed what they were about straight away.

“There is a lot of promise and so many good players.

“We see it in training every day and it must be hard for the manager to pick his side.

“It stands us in great stead as a national team and, hopefully, in the next few years, we can win a couple of things.”

Everton trio Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonjoe Kenny and Kieran Dowell, meanwhile, feature in England Under-21 manager Aidy Boothroyd’s squad for next month’s European Championship in Italy and San Marino.

The three players will be aiming for more international success following their leading roles in England Under-20s’ 2017 World Cup triumph.

Boothroyd’s side – who will be denied the services of Tom Davies after the Everton midfielder sustained a minor shoulder injury – open their finals campaign against France in Cesena on June 18.

England meet Romania in the same city three days later and on June 24 the venue is Serravalle for a clash with Croatia. The three group winners and best second-place team advance to the semi-finals, with the European champions decided in a June 30 final in Udine.