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Uncapped Toney eyes World Cup after ‘surreal’ England call-up

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Brentford striker Evan Toni said on Tuesday he had set his sights on winning a place in the England squad for the World Cup after calling up the “surrealist” for the upcoming Nations League matches.

The unnicknamed Tony secured his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad to face Italy and Germany after a fantastic start to the Premier League season.

The 26-year-old scored five goals in seven Premier League matches, including a hat-trick in the 5-2 win over Leeds.

Tony also scored 14 goals in all competitions last season in Brentford’s first season in the Premier League for 74 years.

With England manager Southgate’s search for a striker to serve as Harry Kane’s World Cup reserve, Toni knows he has a chance to book a seat on the flight to Qatar in November.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to get on the plane,” the striker told reporters.

“But I have to go match by match. I hope to get a few minutes in the matches we have.”

Tony’s unexpected rise came after he spent most of his career working in obscurity in the lower leagues.

He spent loan spells at Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury, Wigan and Barnsley while at Newcastle Books before finally finding a home with Peterborough in 2018.

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Tony thrived in Peterborough, securing his move to Brentford in 2020 which propelled him to join the Premier League and now the England side.

The striker’s path to the top is drastically different from most of the other players in the England squad, but he said he was not surprised to be called up.

“I never doubted it,” he said.

“I feel like I have complete confidence in myself. I have to keep working hard and that makes it even sweeter when I get the chance.

“I’ve never played for any of the other age groups, so to go directly to the first team is a huge achievement. I’m proud of that and I don’t want it to go any other way.”

England will meet Italy in Milan in the Nations League on Friday, before hosting Germany at Wembley three days later.

It’s a far cry from the start of Tony’s career, when he failed to earn the degree at Newcastle.

“Very surreal. I feel that being here at the top of England is a huge privilege for me, my family and also my team.”

smg / jw / iwd

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