England World Cup 2022 squad: Who’s on the plane, who’s in contention and who has work to do?

·12 min read
While the No 9 shirt has a guaranteed owner, other positions are up for grabs over the next few months  (The Independent/Getty)
While the No 9 shirt has a guaranteed owner, other positions are up for grabs over the next few months (The Independent/Getty)

England will be aiming to go one better than last summer and win their first major international tournament in 56 years at the World Cup in Qatar.

Gareth Southgate’s side will play Iran, the United States and Wales in Group B and hope to build on the progress of recent years.

The most recent set of Nations League fixtures provided Southgate with the opportunity to assess his options ahead of the tournament, which begins in November. The end-of-season international break went horribly for England, though, as they failed to win any of their four games and only scored once through a Harry Kane penalty.

The 4-0 defeat by Hungary which rounded the camp off was England’s biggest at home in 94 years, with Southgate admitting he did not find the right balance between experimentation and experience in his team selections.

Getting that balance right will be crucial in Qatar. It is expected that England will be able to select 26 players to go to Qatar, up from the usual 23 but in line with last summer’s European Championship.

Here, The Independent takes a look at who could be included in Southgate’s final squad...

On the plane

Harry Kane

Kane scored his 50th England goal in a Nations League draw with Germany (PA)
Kane scored his 50th England goal in a Nations League draw with Germany (PA)

The England captain and soon to be his country’s all-time leading international goalscorer, too. Kane is three goals behind the current record of 53 and will hope to have surpassed Wayne Rooney by the time the World Cup comes around.

Raheem Sterling

Far from a regular in Manchester City’s starting line-up but, along with Kane, Sterling is one of the cornerstones of Southgate’s England. It is hard to see him missing out, even if he only continues to start now and then at club level.

Declan Rice

Rice was cited as one of the more ‘experienced’ players missing in the 4-0 defeat by Hungary despite being just 23 years old. One of the best young midfielders in Europe, his importance at international level has grown immeasurably in a short time.

Jordan Pickford

Questions over whether Pickford would retain his place in the event of Everton’s potential relegation ignored two points: He was still one of their best players this past season and he has never let England down. Southgate’s No 1 for the foreseeable future.

Harry Maguire

Maguire has performed more impressively for England than for Manchester United (PA)
Maguire has performed more impressively for England than for Manchester United (PA)

Despite a desperately poor year, Maguire is still rated as Manchester United’s best centre half by Southgate and may still be England’s best, too. Even so, a tetchy relationship with the supporters needs to be mended quickly.

Kyle Walker

Described as one of the squad’s “standard-bearers” by Southgate during the summer Nations League camp, Walker is ahead of his many rivals for a right back spot. His experience and ability to play on the right of a back three make him a shoo-in.

Bukayo Saka

If his place in the starting line-up is neither nailed nor defined, Saka’s versatility is valued highly and he has often been the player Southgate turns to in order to change a game. Second only to Grealish in the popularity stakes among the Wembley crowd.

Mason Mount

Hailed for his diligent work out of possession, particularly when marking Joshua Kimmich in Munich, Mount offers everything Southgate wants from one of his attacking players – except goals. He has just four in 31 caps and none in his last 15.

Phil Foden

Foden is sure to be a central figure in the England set-up for years to come (PA)
Foden is sure to be a central figure in the England set-up for years to come (PA)

Foden is probably the most naturally gifted player in this squad and is destined to be a key figure in the years to come but nailing down a position is necessary. Capable of playing in the forward line but spent much of qualifying in a midfield role.

John Stones

Started more World Cup qualifiers than even Kane and Sterling, and was not far off his total of league starts at Man City this season. Stones badly struggled against Hungary but Southgate still rates his and Maguire’s partnership as England’s best.

Nearly there…

Kalvin Phillips

Another who did not do himself any favours against Hungary but, in Phillips’ defence, he is more used to playing in a two with Rice rather than as a lone holding midfielder. Whether a move to rotation-heavy Man City could affect his starting status remains to be seen.

Jordan Henderson

Left out of the summer Nations League squad in order to recuperate from a long season with Liverpool. Southgate knows all there is to know about Henderson already and will likely reinstate him for the September camp, though he faces stiff competition for a starting spot.

Jack Grealish

Grealish impressed against Germany in England’s second Nations League game this June (Action Images via Reuters)
Grealish impressed against Germany in England’s second Nations League game this June (Action Images via Reuters)

Despite questions over whether he is returning on his £100million fee, Grealish seems to have convinced Southgate of his worth. Man City’s record signing has been part of every squad since last summer, even though he has been another victim of Pep Guardiola’s rotation policy.

Reece James

One of the few players to emerge from this summer camp with much credit, James was one of England’s better players in both games at Molineux. Arguably the most well rounded of all the right back options, but his international career is still waiting for lift-off.

Kieran Trippier

Forced to spend most of his minutes at left back during this camp, Trippier did not cover himself in glory at times. But like Walker, he is seen as one of the squad’s leaders and role models for younger players to follow.

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham is the future of England’s midfield and may be its present, too, though Qatar is likely to come a little too soon for a starting spot. Had an opportunity to truly stake a claim against Hungary and did not take it, though was not the only one.

Aaron Ramsdale

Ramsdale will likely remain England’s second-choice goalkeeper despite conceding four against Hungary (Getty Images)
Ramsdale will likely remain England’s second-choice goalkeeper despite conceding four against Hungary (Getty Images)

Now England’s second-choice goalkeeper following a good first season with Arsenal, but Ramsdale still has a lot of work to do before he can be confident of dislodging Pickford as first choice – as the manner of Hungary’s four goals demonstrated in the Three Lions’ second game against them this June.

Nick Pope

Dropping down a division is not necessarily fatal for a back-up England goalkeeper. Pope has demonstrated over the past few years that he is top-flight quality and is an established member of Southgate’s squad, though he may have to make do with being the third choice.

Luke Shaw

Missed this camp after undergoing surgery to remove two metal bolts in the leg he broke seven years ago. The lack of a natural left-footed left back was felt during this break, and Shaw is likely to be Southgate’s first choice when fit and in form.

In contention

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Alexander-Arnold’s talent is unquestionable, but his place in the England squad is not (Getty Images)
Alexander-Arnold’s talent is unquestionable, but his place in the England squad is not (Getty Images)

This squad’s finest playmaker on his day but whether his brand of full back play fits Southgate’s system has always been the question. Left the summer camp early rather than joining late, and his lack of availability for England over the past year may count against him.

Conor Coady

Named England’s “player of the tournament” at the Euros by assistant Steve Holland despite not playing a minute. Coady’s four qualifying starts came against the minnows San Marino and Andorra, but his importance to the dressing room should not be underestimated.

Fikayo Tomori

Taking the plunge and moving to Serie A has paid off hugely. Now with a Scudetto to his name, Tomori is a prime candidate to take advantage of the lack of convincing depth behind Maguire and Stones.

James Ward-Prowse

More than just free kicks and corners, though his ability in dead-ball situations is certainly his unique selling point. Possibly needed to show more in his start against Italy to force his way into Southgate’s band of central midfielders.

Tammy Abraham

Roma striker Abraham ended the season as a Europa Conference League winner (Getty Images)
Roma striker Abraham ended the season as a Europa Conference League winner (Getty Images)

While his rivals to provide cover for Kane in Qatar regressed, Abraham enjoyed an excellent debut season in Rome. A more rounded skill set might give him the edge over Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but he will be disappointed not to have done more against Italy.

Marc Guehi

Southgate is a huge fan of the Crystal Palace centre half, who has been one of the most impressive young players in the top flight this term. Conceded four on his start against Hungary, though arguably looked more composed than Stones, his partner for the night.

Conor Gallagher

Another who struggled when handed a start against Hungary. What happens this summer – and whether he can break in at Chelsea – will have a big say on whether he is merely one for the future or if he has a chance of going to Qatar.

Ben Chilwell

Chilwell’s season was ended in November by a cruciate ligament injury, his recovery only leaving time for a two-minute cameo on the final day of the season. If he can come back fit and ready and avoid injury, he will be halfway to Qatar.

Work to do

Jarrod Bowen

Bowen had to be patient before finally receiving his first England call-up (Getty Images)
Bowen had to be patient before finally receiving his first England call-up (Getty Images)

Outstanding for West Ham this season but has had to be patient for international recognition due to the depth of forward options that Southgate has to choose from. Showed glimpses of what he can do during this break but hauled off at half time against Hungary.

Ben White

Withdrew from the summer camp through injury. Far from ideal for White, given that the centre back slots behind Maguire and Stones are up for grabs and he faces competition from other young defenders who hope to get in ahead of him.

Jadon Sancho

Arrived at Old Trafford last summer with much expected of him and, so far, it has not worked out as planned. Sancho’s struggles cannot be separated from Man United’s much wider problems, and a fresh start under Erik ten Hag could be just what he requires.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford’s last kick in an England shirt was his missed penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout. The United forward still has plenty of credit in the bank with Southgate, but a substantial turnaround in form is required to force his way back in for Qatar.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Calvert-Lewin risks losing his place as Harry Kane’s back-up (Getty Images)
Calvert-Lewin risks losing his place as Harry Kane’s back-up (Getty Images)

Another whose season was badly disrupted by injury, Calvert-Lewin eventually returned and played enough on a consistent basis to help Everton stave off the drop. Appears to be behind Abraham in the queue now, though a fast start to next season could change things.

Tyrone Mings

A regular in Southgate’s squads since 2019, Mings was suddenly omitted this summer. The Aston Villa captain’s left-footedness is considered an asset, but a group of younger, more inexperienced centre halves has been tested out.

Emile Smith Rowe

Part of the squad in March despite dropping to the bench at Arsenal but now looks unlikely to make his way back into Southgate’s plan – unless he can regain his place at club level. Must prove that an impressive start to the season for Arsenal was not just a hot streak.

Ollie Watkins

Watkins’ opportunities with England have only come in dribs and drabs and, though two goals in 137 minutes of football is a decent record, the Villa forward needs to match the output of his rivals at club level to stake a serious claim for World Cup inclusion.

Sam Johnstone

Johnstone is another possible as back-up to Pickford (PA)
Johnstone is another possible as back-up to Pickford (PA)

Expected to join Crystal Palace this summer and, provided he is first choice there, a return to the Premier League will only help his chances of being one of the three goalkeepers Southgate is required to select.

Outside bets

James Maddison

Maddison could not have done much more to earn an international call-up after a strong end to the season. His 18 goals and 12 assists in all competitions marked a career-best but were still not enough to dislodge his direct rivals Foden, Mount and Grealish.

Eric Dier

Southgate conceded he had been harsh to leave Dier out of the summer squad after a strong end to the season with Tottenham, though cited Dier playing in the middle of a back three as one of the reasons why he had looked elsewhere.

James Justin

The most surprising name in the Nations League squad and looked uncomfortable on debut in Budapest. Justin’s ability to play on either the left or right side of defence is a plus, but he does not have long to push his way ahead of other more established full backs.

Patrick Bamford

Bamford struggled with injury issues throughout the 2021/22 season (PA)
Bamford struggled with injury issues throughout the 2021/22 season (PA)

Failed to open his account at international level after being called up last September, then spent much of the season on the sidelines at Leeds due to injury. Unless he suddenly finds form at the start of next season, it is hard to see him regaining his spot in time.

Tyrick Mitchell

Unlucky to miss out on a recall after making his debut during the March internationals and not looking out of place. The uncertainty over Shaw and Chilwell’s fitness stands in his favour but both are ahead of him in the queue when available.

Jesse Lingard

Lingard’s departure from United after more than a decade on the books should herald a fresh start. At 29 years of age, he will want to avoid another wasted season like the last. Another spurt of form to match his on-loan exploits at West Ham is his best hope of a recall.

Kyle Walker-Peters

Debuted against Switzerland and, like the other first-timers in March, did not look out of place, but the depth at full back makes a late run into the final squad difficult. Versatility to play on the left and the right is useful, at least.

Jacob Ramsey

Another youngster that Southgate and his staff have watched closely and are impressed with, but this winter World Cup is likely to come too soon for the Villa academy graduate, who is more likely to feature at under-21 level.

Dean Henderson

Henderson has not yet received enough game time at Man United to justify a place in Qatar (PA)
Henderson has not yet received enough game time at Man United to justify a place in Qatar (PA)

Henderson cannot afford to spend another stagnant season as second choice at Man United, after only making three appearances this term. A talented goalkeeper who simply has not played enough over the past two years.

The Independent’s predicted 26-man World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale

Defenders: Ben Chilwell, Conor Coady, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Fikayo Tomori, Kyle Walker

Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice

Forwards: Tammy Abraham, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling