Manchester United stars start, Jack Grealish out, but 18-year-old Jude Bellingham in March 30, 2022 – Posted in: Soccer
After two victories over the international break, Gareth Southgate has some more thinking to do regarding his starting XI at the 2022 World Cup.
The tournament in Qatar is eight months away and there is plenty more football still to play, with players ready to prove why they deserve to start for the Three Lions.
The likes of Ben White, Tyrick Mitchell, and Jude Bellingham have impressed during this international break, making things even harder for the England boss.
But if Southgate had to pick his team today, who would make it? talkSPORT.com takes a look.
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford
Whilst some will, perhaps rightly, criticise him for his form at club level, Pickford rarely puts a foot wrong in an England shirt.
The Everton goalkeeper has struggled for the Toffees this season, as have the whole team, but he has pulled out numerous top-quality saves in the past few international tournaments, and Southgate trusts him with the No.1 spot.
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale has been superb this campaign and has a chance of starting for his country at the World Cup, but he needs more time to prove himself as a top shot-stopper for his club and country.
The fact he was unable to play either of England’s friendlies during this international break will be a blow for the Gunners keeper.
Defence – Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Have these players been the most in-form English defenders in the Premier League this season? No.
But their performances for England in recent tournaments, their partnerships at club level, and the faith the manager has in them are all vital when picking a defence for a major tournament, meaning these four are probably the Three Lions’ best defensive combination.
England’s depth at right-back is well documented, and Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be unlucky not to start, but Walker’s big-game experience gives him the edge heading into the major tournament.
Neither played in the two friendlies during this international break which didn’t help their cause for a start, which means Euro 2024 could be when the Chelsea and Liverpool lads get their chance.
Maguire’s dismal performances at club level are also much talked about, but there aren’t many players that perform better for England than the Manchester United man.
Jordan Henderson couldn’t get his head around why the fans who booed Maguire, before the win over the Ivory Coast, labelling him a ‘colossus’ when playing for his country.
Midfield – Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham
Whilst experience is necessary in defence, Southgate has shown that he is willing to entrust his faith in younger players further up the pitch.
Despite being just 23, and 18 years old respectively, Rice and Bellingham have shown unbelievable maturity on and off the pitch for club and country.
And it’s not just about attitude, both have the ability which means they have earned their place in the starting XI, with Rice helping West Ham into a Europa League quarter-final and Bellingham starting regularly for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.
Along with his performances in the German top-flight, the Dortmund man’s Man of the Match display against Ivory Coast has put him firmly in the frame to start for Southgate in Qatar.
Some experience is needed in the middle of the park and Liverpool captain Henderson offers just that.
Capable of sitting in front of the defence and creating from deep, the Premier League and Champions League winner (not many England players have done that) would complement the energy and attacking intent of Rice and Bellingham perfectly.
Attack – Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Phil Foden
Sterling and Kane are two of the first names on the England teamsheet. You only need to look at Southgate’s line-ups to see that.
They are two of England’s most consistent performers and rarely let the manager down when they’re picked. They both score goals, they both create, they both lead from the front.
And they both did just that in England’s two friendlies during the international break – as Kane netted in the win over Switzerland and Sterling bagged against Ivory Coast, cementing their spots in the starting XI.
As for Manchester City’s Foden – who’s viewed by some as England’s future – you can’t ignore the dynamism and creativity he offers for club and country.
He can come inside, he can drop deep, and he can get in behind – is there anything this 21-year-old can’t do?
England’s starting XI for the 2022 World Cup if it were picked RIGHT NOW…
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