England manager Gareth Southgate has released the much-awaited 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Given the popularity and media scrutiny football enjoys in the UK, pressure on The Three Lions is immense. England have not won a major tournament since their World Cup of 1966 but recent positives such as fourth place finish at the 2018 World Cup and a second-place finish in Euro 2020 have raised cautious optimism. As with many squads, players who missed out make the biggest headlines.
Perhaps the headline absentee is Jadon Sancho. With lackluster displays for the Red Devils, he has subsequently failed to convince Southgate why he deserves a place in the squad for Qatar. Fikayo Tomori also failed to make the cut despite stellar performances with AC Milan since he made his move from Chelsea. Many have questioned why Tomori did not make the squad despite playing regularly. Harry Maguire, who endured a torrid time with The Three Lions in the UEFA Nations League has been on the bench for Manchester United for much of the season. His inclusion and the exclusion of Tomori have raised concerns of bias and misjudgment by Southgate. Other absentees include Marc Guehi, James Ward-Prowse.
Notable absentees due to injury include Reece James, Ben Chilwell, and Emile Smith-Rowe. The pair of Chelsea fullbacks will be dearly missed given their great performances last season for the Blues.
James Maddison highlights the most notable inclusion in the squad. The Leicester midfielder last made an appearance for England in 2019 but his scintillating form this season has earned him a call-up. It is hoped he could add a dimension of creativity to the England midfield which was lacking in their disastrous UEFA Nations league campaign.
Callum Wilson has also had a decent start to the 2022-2023 season with Newcastle. The Magpie’s frontman has netted six times and Southgate is convinced he could partner or cover for Harry Kane alongside Marcus Rashford. Wilson’s inclusion has been at the expense of the likes of Tammy Abraham and Ivan Toney. Abraham has found the going tough this season at Roma while Toney is loving life at Brantford. It would be a lingering question for long as to why Toney missed out given his outstanding displays this campaign.
Manchester City players Kyle Walker and Kalvin Philips are also included despite injury concerns. Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, and Conor Gallagher offer the team a blend of youth alongside the likes of Kalvin Philips.
How will England line up?
Southgate still has the difficult task of picking a starting XI. With a 3-4-3 formation, he could choose Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Stones, Trent, Bellingham, Rice, Trippier, Sterling, Kane, and Grealish.
An alternative would be 4-2-3-1 with Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Stones, Trippier, Bellingham, Rice, Saka, Mount, Sterling, and Kane. With several wise forwards available, Southgate has the added task of setting up a competitive and effective team if they are to go all the way.
The England squad is not short of talent. Further, the squad has a combined 820 caps, the second highest for a Three Lions squad. England is one of the favorites and maybe this is the time that football finally comes home.
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26-man England squad
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Newcastle), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle), Conor Coady (Everton), Ben White (Arsenal), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)
Forwards: James Maddison (Leicester), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Callum Wilson (Newcastle), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)