The countdown to the 2022 World Cup is well and truly on, with 23 seats on the plane to Qatar up for grabs as Gareth Southgate pieces together his plans for another shot at global glory with England.
The Three Lions reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago, only to come up short against Croatia, and reached a final at Wembley Stadium in Euro 2020 before suffering more penalty shootout heartache against Italy.
Positive steps are being taken in the right direction, but can a 56-year wait for tangible success be brought to a close in the Middle East and who will be charged with the task of landing major silverware? GOAL takes a look at the hopefuls longing to see their names called.
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Which goalkeepers will make England’s 2022 World Cup squad?
Everton keeper Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s go-to option between the sticks, as he blends shot-stopping ability with impressive distribution off the deck, and appears guaranteed to make the cut if fit. The same could be said for Aaron Ramsdale following his eye-catching campaign at Arsenal, with the 23-year-old another of those that is as comfortable with his feet as he is with his hands.
Burnley’s Nick Pope has often been third in line for England and will hope to see that trend continue when some big calls are made ahead of a showpiece event in November. Sam Johnstone is playing Championship football at West Brom this season, but remains in contention, while Jack Butland could surge up the pecking order if a starting berth is retained at Crystal Palace.
Etienne Green has been making quite a name for himself at Saint-Etienne in France but he, along with fellow England U21 international Josef Bursik of Stoke, remains one for the future. Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster have been in and around senior squads before, but would need untimely setbacks to be endured by others in order to see a path clear for them.
Which defenders will make England’s 2022 World Cup squad?
There are a number of spots in Southgate’s defensive unit that appear to have been filled, with eight players currently odds-on to make England’s final 23-man party.
Harry Maguire of Manchester United, Manchester City centre-half John Stones, United and Chelsea left-backs Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell and the versatile Ben White of Arsenal are all expected to get the nod.
There is far greater competition at right-back, with Kyle Walker of Manchester City, Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold, Chelsea full-back Reece James and Newcastle new boy Kieran Trippier all competing for one starting berth.
Outside of the established elite, Tyrone Mings’ value as a left-footed centre-half could see the Aston Villa man called upon. Conor Coady of Wolves, AC Milan centre-half Fikayo Tomori and Eric Dier and Joe Gomez of Tottenham and Liverpool respectively could figure if fortune favours them.
Tariq Lamptey has caught the eye at Brighton, but faces fierce competition in his favoured defensive berth. Recognition may well come for the likes of Crystal Palace's Marc Guehi or Chelsea's Trevoh Chalobah as they continue their development.
Which midfielders will make England’s 2022 World Cup squad?
There are another eight apparently obvious selections when it comes to midfield berths, with West Ham holding star Declan Rice, talented teenager Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea playmaker Mason Mount and Manchester City youngster Phil Foden the shortest-priced of those.
Jack Grealish, as the most expensive player in British football at Manchester City, is another almost guaranteed to secure a ticket, along with Bukayo Saka of Arsenal and Leeds United talisman Kalvin Phillips.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will hope to have done enough to earn a call from Southgate, while Arsenal starlet Emile Smith Rowe has emerged as another useful creative influence.
Conor Gallagher’s impressive loan spell at Crystal Palace has brought him into contention, while Jesse Lingard cannot be ruled out entirely despite struggling for minutes at Manchester United as he will drop into the free agent pool this summer and land himself a move elsewhere.
James Maddison may be a key man at Leicester, but other playmakers are ahead of him on England’s depth chart, while the same can be said for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – a man with 35 caps to his name.
Dele Alli will need to produce something special during a loan spell at relegation-threatened Everton to work his way back into favour, while home-grown Chelsea star Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another to have fallen out of favour since figuring in England’s run to the last four at the 2018 World Cup.
Emile Smith Rowe
Which forwards will make England’s 2022 World Cup squad?
Given that he is captain of the Three Lions and a man well on course to chase down Wayne Rooney’s all-time record goal haul for his country, it may come as a surprise to find that Tottenham striker Harry Kane is not top of the market when it comes to attacking calls.
He will be involved, though, if untimely injuries are avoided, as will Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling and Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.
Jadon Sancho has come back into form at Manchester United, giving him a shot at selection, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be hoping to do enough at Everton to prove that he can provide capable cover for Kane.
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford remains highly regarded and is expected to make the plane, but his odds of inclusion may take a tumble if the dip in form, which saw him left out of England's March international panel, continues.
Jarrod Bowen’s fine form at West Ham has made him flavour of the month, but he will need to maintain his current standards in order to secure a ticket to Qatar. Tammy Abraham has fared admirably in Italy with Roma, while Ollie Watkins remains a handful at Aston Villa, and they could be asked to provide back-up in a No.9 post.
Callum Hudson-Odoineeds to be figuring more frequently for Chelsea in order to put himself into contention, Patrick Bamford and Callum Wilson have to shake off injury struggles at Leeds and Newcastle respectively, and Danny Ings must raise his game with Aston Villa in order to add to his three caps.
There is little chance of Leicester’s Jamie Vardy being asked to step out of international retirement, but an attacking star may burst onto the scene out of nowhere and stage a late surge for selection within Southgate’s goalscoring ranks.
All odds from Sky Bet and correct at time of writing on 24/03/2022. 18+. begambleaware.org