England at FIFA World Cup 2022: Squad analysis, starting XI, formation

The Three Lions finished fourth in the 2018 World Cup and lost the Euros last year on penalties, but it is hard to see them among the favourites for the title when the tournament kicks off.

England skipper Harry Kane will be leading the side and will be the team’s biggest goal threat and chief creator.

England skipper Harry Kane will be leading the side and will be the team’s biggest goal threat and chief creator. | Photo Credit: AFP

The Three Lions finished fourth in the 2018 World Cup and lost the Euros last year on penalties, but it is hard to see them among the favourites for the title when the tournament kicks off.

England manager Gareth Southgate didn’t raise many eyebrows with his selection in the 26-man FIFA World Cup squad on Thursday. Southgate had a few concerns regarding the fitness and form of key players and has decided to stick with them when they travel to Qatar next week.

The Three Lions finished fourth in the 2018 World Cup and lost the Euros last year on penalties, but it is hard to see them among the favourites for the title when the tournament kicks off.

Their form in the Nations League – winless in six matches, albeit the fixtures came at the fag end of a gruelling domestic season -- has doused expectations. The England manager also veered away from his prefered formation and opted for a 4-3-3 shape without much success.

Southgate tends to have his favourites and has been loyal to several players in the last few years, so come the tournament, he will have a few tough calls to make.

Starting with the goalkeeping position, England has three strong contenders. Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s No. 1 choice in the last two major tournaments and despite strong performances from Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope for Arsenal and Newcastle United, respectively, the Everton shot-stopper will likely start in goal.

Southgate, who prefers to operate in a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-4-3 formation, will be relieved to have defender Kyle Walker back in time from his injury. Walker will slot in at the right centre-back alongside John Stones in the middle and Harry Maguire. The form of Maguire, who has had just one start at Manchester United, will be a concern. While Maguire has been reliable for England in major tournaments, he is culpable of being caught out by pace. Eric Dier, who is playing regularly at Tottenham Hotspur, is another option at centre-back.

With the injury to Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw is the only recognised left-back for England in the squad. Kieran Trippier, who will start as the right wingback, has played on the left side in the past. Bukayo Saka, who started his Arsenal senior career as a full-back, has been deployed in that role too, but his best results come as a right winger. England has strong right fullback contenders in Trippier, Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben White.

Bellingham – A brave option

In the midfield pivot, Declan Rice will be tasked with shielding the backline. It will be interesting to see if Southgate risks Kalvin Phillips, who recently returned from surgery on his shoulder, to partner Rice. Teenage central midfielder Jude Bellingham poses a more attacking and braver option in the role. Bellingham’s ball-carrying abilities and line-breaking passes from the midfield could breathe fresh life into England’s attacks. Conor Gallagher carried a goal threat while playing on loan at Crystal Palace last season when he was playing closer to goal, but it’s unlikely he will be offered a similar role with England.

Saka is a natural winger, who can cut in from the right and is fast becoming a goal-scoring threat. At Arsenal, he has scored four goals and set up six goals and has already scored thrice in an England shirt against weaker oppositions Andorra and San Marino. Attacking midfielder Phil Foden is the other left-footed option on the right, but he has so far struggled to replicate his Manchester City form in the national side.

On the left, Raheem Sterling has been a trusted option for Southgate despite his lack of goals. His workrate and movement off the ball have been an invaluable asset for England. Winger Marcus Rashford has seen some resurgence in form after a torrid spell last season at Manchester United and can provide a threat on the counter-attack. Jack Grealish is off-colour at his club side Manchester City.

Skipper Harry Kane will be leading the side and will be the team’s biggest goal threat and chief creator. Kane has the knack of dropping between spaces and using his passing skill to find fast runners behind the defensive lines. Callum Wilson, whose last England goal came in 2018, is a natural finisher and has been rewarded for his excellent form with Newcastle United. Wilson has had his struggles with injuries but can provide a backup option off the bench. Rashford also possesses the ability to play off Kane as a striker.

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