|Image from EssentiallySports|
England had one of their best World Cup runs in 2018 as they finished fourth, their highest position at a World Cup since 1990 as Gareth Southgate and his Three Lions squad unified the country with some excellent performances and dramatic ones too. Both Southgate and golden boot winning skipper, Harry Kane won awards for this World Cup campaign, with Southgate earning an OBE and Kane an MBE. England will be hoping to improve at the Euros which will now happen in the summer of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will want to improve on their fourth place finish in 2022 when Qatar will host the World Cup for the first time ever from late November to mid-December.
Prior to the suspension of football, England had the best odds on winning the Euros with 6/1 odds to win their first ever European Championships, equal to Belgium’s and just behind the World Cup 2018 Winners, France with 7/1 odds (cited from Betting Metrics) but have tougher odds in the World Cup 2022 as they have been given 10/1 odds to win their first World Cup in 46 years and are judged to be fifth likely winners behind Brazil, France, Germany and Spain (cited from Sky Bet).
The England squad has already dramatically changed since the 2018 World Cup with some players retiring such as Vardy, Cahill and Young and others coming of age such as Sancho, Chilwell and Maddison. This is likely to change in two years time with the same process occurring and so here is my prediction for the England squad for the 2022 World Cup and where they are likely to finish:
GOALKEEPERS: Dean Henderson, Nick Pope, Jordan Pickford
For me, Jordan Pickford will no longer be the first choice for England as Dean Henderson would have had two more years to get even better and I predict by the start of the 2021/22 season, he will be featuring for Manchester United as the second choice ‘keeper for cup matches and some European games, making De Gea’s place more competitive as Romero would leave upon his contract expiring. Pope is reportedly a Chelsea target as Kepa looks set to leave or compete for his place and I don’t doubt age will only help the Burnley goalkeeper who will be 28 at the time of the World Cup and about to enter his prime years as a goalkeeper. Pickford seems to be on a downward spiral domestically but perhaps his form for England will keep him at number one. Honestly I don’t see him doing so and he will be third choice if Aaron Ramsdale does not dramatically rise.
FULL BACKS: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ben Chilwell, Brandon Williams
Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka should be the right back options for the Euros in 2021 with Southgate likely to make a difficult choice to leave Walker, Trippier and James out of the squad as these two should become world class fullbacks in two years time and competing for the starting position which I do think Trent may edge but Wan-Bissaka could develop his attacking ability before Trent improves defensively, only time will tell.
As for the left backs, it was a coin-toss between Williams and Shaw but I think Shaw has a lower peak than Williams and he has the ability to be a better player than the former-Saints player. Chilwell of course looks like he will move to either Chelsea or Manchester City who both need left backs and he is one of the best in the league right now. He should start for England but Williams will be hot on his trail.
CENTRE BACKS: Harry Maguire, Joe Gomez, Fiyako Tomori, Axel Tuanzebe
Maguire and Gomez are likely to be the starting centre backs with Tomori and Tarkowski clear back ups. Maguire will be 29 and Gomez should have established himself as Liverpool’s second choice defender behind the obviously superior Van Dijk. Tomori should have pushed himself to the front of the Chelsea queue and it was another coin-toss between Tuanzebe, Tarkowski and Keane but I think Tuanzebe will establish himself next to Maguire if he progresses past Lindelof and Bailly.
CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, Dele Alli, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Maddison, Jack Grealish
Jordan Henderson is the only player guaranteed a starting position in this side and although he will be 32 at the time, he should remain an integral part of England’s team. Declan Rice will probably be the anchor of a midfield three or alongside Henderson in a holding midfield pair as the more defensive of the two and I would expect Maddison to start ahead of Alli but the Spurs midfielder to give Maddison competition throughout the campaign. Mason Mount was close to coming in but I think Alli under Mourinho gets the nod. Oxlade-Chamberlain should develop into a regular starter for Liverpool instead of Wijnaldum as he offers more energy and pace in midfield and then compete more for an England place. I think Foden won’t be ready for the senior team yet as he won’t be playing regularly for City either. Winks was close to getting in but I thought that Southgate would pick two defensive midfielders, two central midfielders and two attacking midfielders and I would rather have Grealish than Winks as Grealish is more versatile and could offer more than Winks, especially if his development skyrockets at a bigger club which looks set to happen this summer.
FORWARDS: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham, Mason Greenwood
Undeniable to have Harry Kane in the side as I expect he will lead England’s line for another World Cup. Sterling will hope for better form in the 2022 World Cup as either Sancho or Rashford will be on the bench and hungry for starting positions. Sterling would turn 28 during the World Cup and so will be expected to be one of the best players at the tournament as he enters his prime. Rashford and Sancho of course will only get better as they get older and are guaranteed a spot in the squad. Abraham probably gets the nod over Wilson as I expect the Chelsea forward to shine under Lampard and offer both his aerial prowess and pace off the bench. Again it was a difficult choice between Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Greenwood but I do think currently, Mason Greenwood is the better choice as Hudson-Odoi has played a total number of minutes equivalent to 16 matches whereas Greenwood has played closer to 20 full matches and scored twelve goals in comparison to Hudson-Odoi’s four. It would be a great experience to bring the youngster to the World Cup as he would only be 21 and gain a lot from going with the team.
While I do think the squad will be far stronger than the team that did so well at the 2018 World Cup, I do not think football’s coming home in 2022, sad as it may be. I do think England will challenge for the trophy and certainly make it to the Semi-Finals at least but I do doubt their ability against the best teams.