Five times England took teenagers to major tournaments - Wayne Rooney
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Five times England took teenagers to major tournaments

England have named Kobbie Mainoo in their squad for March’s international break, capping a meteoric few months for the Manchester United teenager.

Mainoo only made his first start in the Premier League at Everton in November, but a run of eye-catching performances has led to calls for the 18-year-old to be included in the England squad for Euro 2024.

Gareth Southgate will run the rule over the midfielder this month, with fixtures against Brazil and Belgium providing the perfect chance for Mainoo to stake his claim for tournament involvement.

Mainoo would not be the first teenager to time a run into the England squad ahead of a major tournament and we’ve remembered five occasions the Three Lions included teens in their travelling party.

Five times England took teenagers to major tournaments:

Michael Owen (World Cup – 1998)

Michael Owen’s electric emergence was impossible for England to ignore during the 1997/98 campaign, as the Liverpool teenager won the Premier League’s Golden Boot. Having only made his debut for the Reds at the back end of the previous campaign, it was a stunning start to his senior career, with Owen remaining the only teenager to have finished as the league’s leading scorer.

Glenn Hoddle included the 18-year-old in his squad for France ’98, where Owen began the tournament as a back-up option to Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, the partnership that had fired England to the semi-finals of Euro ’96 on home soil.

Owen came off the bench to score against Romania in the second group game, becoming England’s youngest-ever goalscorer at a World Cup, and retained his place for the following games.

In the last 16, he scored a sensational solo goal against Argentina that catapulted him into the consciousness of the wider world, though England bowed out on penalties. Owen went on to retain the Premier League’s Golden Boot the following season and represented England at five major tournaments, scoring 40 goals in 89 caps for the Three Lions.

Michael Owen Exclusive: England icon talks to The Football Faithful

Wayne Rooney (European Championship – 2004)

English football has perhaps never seen a teenage talent like Wayne Rooney. From the moment Rooney announced his arrival with an iconic goal against Arsenal as a 16-year-old, the world appeared at his feet. Before his 18th birthday, he had become England’s youngest debutant and goalscorer, cementing a central role in the team’s plans for Euro 2024.

The precociously talented Liverpudlian took to Europe’s biggest stage with an effortless – arguably arrogant – ease. The opening fixture of the finals saw England face holders France and despite defeat, it was Rooney who rag-dolled Les Bleus’ backline in a statement performance.

He scored twice in the following fixture against Switzerland and another brace against Croatia, illuminating the tournament as England rode a wave of momentum and optimism. A metatarsal injury early in the quarter-final contributed to England’s exit, leaving a sense of what if given Rooney’s performances in Portugal.

A star had been born.

Theo Walcott (World Cup – 2006)

Sven-Göran Eriksson’s success in taking an inexperienced Rooney to a major tournament perhaps clouded his judgement when assessing Theo Walcott’s credentials in 2006. The Southampton starlet had signed for Arsenal in the January transfer window, but an England call-up for the World Cup was a huge shock.

Walcott was included in Eriksson’s England squad despite having never played Premier League football or made a single first-team appearance for the Gunners. He was named in the squad ahead of Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent, with the latter in particular unfortunate to miss out after scoring 18 goals in the Premier League for Charlton Athletic.

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“It’s a big gamble, I know it is,” Eriksson said at the time.

“I am excited to see him, he’s a big talent. And pace in football today is worth a lot.

Despite Wayne Rooney being short of fitness and Michael Owen’s ACL injury in the group stage, Walcott failed to make an appearance at the tournament.

Marcus Rashford (European Championship – 2016)

Kobbie Mainoo appears to be following in the footsteps of Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford, whose stunning first-team emergence in February 2016 took him to that summer’s European Championship.

Rashford’s debut for Manchester United came in surprise circumstances, as Louis van Gaal handed the teenager a debut in his injury-hit side against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League. Rashford scored twice to announce his arrival, before scoring another brace on his Premier League bow against Arsenal days later.

The 18-year-old scored eight goals in 18 appearances across the season’s run-in and earned an England debut ahead of the European Championship. He became the youngest Englishman to score on his debut for the Three Lions after taking three minutes to open his account in a warm-up friendly against Australia.

Rashford made two substitute appearances in England’s disappointing campaign at Euro 2016, as Roy Hodgson’s team exited to Iceland in the last 16.

Unforgettable Debuts: A baby-faced Rashford announces himself to the world with Europa League brace

Bukayo Saka (European Championship – 2021)

Bukayo Saka broke into the England team ahead of the rescheduled 2020 European Championship, making his debut in the autumn before the tournament.

He scored his first international goal in a friendly win over Austria before the finals and was named man of the match after impressing in the group stage win over the Czech Republic. Saka came on as a substitute as England lost the final to Italy at Wembley and missed the fifth spot-kick in the shootout defeat.

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The Arsenal winger has since established himself as an integral part of England’s first-choice side, winning the England Men’s Player of the Year award in 2021/22 and 2022/23.

Read – The problem positions England must solve before Euro 2024

See more – The best England kits of all time as Nike reveals Euro 2024 jerseys

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