“We have a pretty good idea of what our strongest team is.”
Gareth Southgate was disappointed but not flustered after the 1-0 defeat in Hungary. It was a match that didn’t do anything to help England’s fringe players as the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Justin failed to impress, but how will the Three Lions line-up at the World Cup in November?
Southgate knows his strongest team, and we’ve taken an educated guess on what that might be, in his favoured 5-2-3 formation.
GK: Jordan Pickford
No doubt about it. England’s best goalkeeper since David Seaman and penalty saving expert Pickford, is Southgate’s tried and trusted number one. Given his wonderful performances in major tournaments, he will surely start in Qatar.
RWB: Reece James
Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn’t played well for England and doesn’t seem to fit the system, so the right wing-back position comes down to Kieran Trippier or Reece James. The Chelsea man may have given away the penalty in Budapest, but we think Southgate will just go for him above the reliable Trippier.
CB: Kyle Walker
One of England’s most important players. He showed at Euro 2020 just how vital he is and his pace is needed in tournament football to get the other defenders out of sticky situations. If it's a back four, he will start at right-back, if it's a five, he’ll be in that centre-back role.
CB: John Stones
Experience at major tournaments is so important and John Stones is still one of England’s most important defenders. He could do with more game time and Manchester City, but he should start in Qatar.
CB: Harry Maguire
Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi are the future, but the present is Maguire. The much-maligned Manchester United defender had a poor season, but has still produced for England and his threat from set pieces is unmatched. Hopefully his confidence will return under Erik ten Hag.
LWB: Luke Shaw
The lack of options in this area could hurt England, but hopefully Ben Chilwell will return to full fitness and Shaw will get his form back. The goalscorer from the Euro 2020 final has attacking ability and experience, which should see him start in Qatar.
CM: Declan Rice
A guaranteed starter for Southgate. England’s best central midfielder and the beating heart of this side. His ball-carrying ability will be crucial for the Three Lions and he was seriously hurt by the Euro 2020 loss. He’ll want to produce.
CM: Jude Bellingham
A big call, but Bellingham has just shown enough to edge out both Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson. Henderson has immense experience and Phillips was a rock at Euro 2020 but injuries have hampered his progress. At the moment Bellingham is in the driving seat.
RW: Phil Foden
England’s most talented player. End of discussion. Bukayo Saka started the Euro 2020 final and has been in sensational form, but there’s no way Phil Foden doesn’t start for England at this World Cup. Southgate knows he must be included, with Saka the perfect option off the bench.
ST: Harry Kane
England’s captain and soon to be the highest international goalscorer this country has ever had. He starts every match, but Tammy Abraham is a talented understudy.
LW: Raheem Sterling
There are always contenders for the forward spots, with Jack Grealish a worthy option, but Sterling saves his best work for his country. Critics questioned his selection at Euro 2020 and he was England’s top goal scorer. That sort of consistency doesn’t get overlooked by Southgate and he could produce magic again.