Stuart Pearce, who will manage the side, yesterday cut the original long list of 191 names down to 80, among them Steven Fletcher, the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker who is currently in dispute with Scotland manager Craig Levein after refusing a call-up in February last year.
It is thought James Forrest, Jordan Rhodes, Barry Bannan, and David Goodwillie – as well as around six or seven others – are also in contention for a place at the under-23 tournament that will run from July 26 to the final on August 11. The group, that can include three over-age players, will be reduced further to 35 players by June 8 and then cut to a final squad of 18, plus four reserves, by July 6.
Pearce, who cannot select anyone involved in England's Euro 2012 squad, has also included Craig Bellamy, Gareth Bale, and Chris Brunt in his group of 80, demonstrating his intention to choose players from all four Home Nations despite the objections of the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish football associations, worried that any involvement could affect their future autonomy.
David Beckham has also made the cut and is favourite to captain the team, his presence likely to boost ticket sales, with more than 50,000 already sold for the opening game at Old Trafford on July 26. The team will learn their three group stage opponents on Tuesday, although it is likely they will be kept apart from fellow European contenders Spain, Switzerland and Belarus, plus Brazil, who will likely be a fellow top seed.
Argentina, USA and Australia are among the most notable teams who have not qualified but the presence of Uruguay, Mexico and New Zealand should generate wider interest. The final place in the men's competition will be decided at Coventry on Monday, when Senegal take on Oman in a play-off.
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