The 2022 World Cup in Qatar is almost here, but there are still big question marks over who will make Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Southgate, who selected a 55-man preliminary squad at the end of October, has to whittle that down to a final group of 26 for the tournament, which runs from November 20 to December 18.

Time has run out for the players to impress with Southgate announcing his squad on Thursday.

But who will he pick? Here, the Sky Sports writers have their say on who should be in the squad…

Nick Wright: Toney misses out as Wilson gets the nod

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Ivan Toney is fighting with Callum Wilson to be Harry Kane’s back-up striker

Nick Wright’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Ben White, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker, Conor Coady.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Kalvin Phillips, James Maddison, Conor Gallagher.
  • Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Callum Wilson.

It seems highly unlikely to me that Reece James will be fit enough for the tournament given the severity of his injury, hence his absence from my 26, although I would most definitely make room for him if he is.

The midfield is the area that worries me. There is a quality unit there in Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and Jude Bellingham, but will Phillips be ready? Depth is badly lacking. I’ve included Conor Gallagher because he could slot into a few different roles if required. James Maddison is another creative option.

Marcus Rashford has to go, in my opinion. He will most likely feature on the flanks but he can also deputise for Harry Kane along with the in-form Callum Wilson. Wilson gets the nod ahead of the struggling Tammy Abraham, the not-quite-fit-enough Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Brentford’s Ivan Toney.

I was tempted to pick Toney, largely because of his penalty-taking prowess with potential shootouts in mind, but I couldn’t squeeze in another attacker. The fact he is yet to make an international appearance also makes him a little too green for this tournament.

Peter Smith: Don’t rush back injured trio and prepare for penalties

Kalvin Phillips
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Kalvin Phillips says he is ‘very hopeful’ of being included in the World Cup squad

Peter Smith’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Ben White, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Ryan Sessegnon, Conor Coady.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney.

England have fallen into the trap of trying to rush back key players from injury for major tournaments too many times before. It’s never really paid off, so alternatives to Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kalvin Phillips need to be found.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a beneficiary, while Conor Gallagher can add energy to the midfield if first-choice Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice need a breather. The go-to defensive back three will be John Stones, Eric Dier and Harry Maguire but Ben White and Conor Coady offer decent support.

With Ben Chilwell out left-back/left wing-back cover is needed for Luke Shaw and Ryan Sessegnon is on the right path at Tottenham, while James Maddison’s numbers – and the luxury of a larger 26-man squad – make him a must-pick.

Up top, in-form Callum Wilson has to go as Harry Kane’s understudy, Marcus Rashford’s recent performances suggest he could cause problems from the left, and Ivan Toney’s penalty mastery will be handy when that inevitable shootout comes around.

Joe Shread: Maguire and Grealish dropped, Sessegnon and Maddison make the cut

Harry Maguire started both of England's final two Nations League games
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Harry Maguire started both of England’s final two Nations League games

Joe Shread’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope .
  • Defenders: Reece James, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Eric Dier, Ben White, Fikayo Tomori.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Conor Gallagher, James Ward-Prowse, Mason Mount, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford.

Let’s party like it’s 2018 – I’m getting the gang from the last World Cup back together.

After missing out on my squad in April, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker – assuming he is fit – are back. The increased all-round qualities offered by the experienced duo see them usurp Trent Alexander-Arnold. I may have written seven months ago that leaving him out would be a “nonsense” but the Liverpool defender’s defensive deficiencies have been tough to ignore this season. However, if – as seems likely – Reece James’ knee injury rules him out of the tournament, then Alexander-Arnold should travel given the lack of alternatives.

Eric Dier is also handed a recall, although again that’s more to do with a lack of centre-back options. Out goes Harry Maguire, a fellow member of the 2018 squad. The Manchester United man has been way off it for well over a year now and his scrambled performance in England’s draw with Germany in September just confirmed the suspicion that he shouldn’t be in the squad, let alone the starting XI.

I’m also handing a surprise recall to one of the lesser-known members of England’s 2018 vintage. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has overcome his injury woes and his strength, quality in possession and ability to play centrally or out wide would make him a highly useful option. He is joined in the squad by Conor Gallagher and James Ward-Prowse, who come in for Kalvin Phillips, a star for England at Euro 2020 but lacking in game time and fitness since joining Manchester City.

The final member of the 2018 squad who is back in the fold is Marcus Rashford. I wrote in April there should be a place for the Man Utd forward if he rediscovers his form – and he has done just that. He takes the place of Jadon Sancho, who has yet to convince at Old Trafford or with England.

There’s still time for two final changes. Ryan Sessegnon is handed a maiden call-up due to the wing-back crisis that has claimed Ben Chilwell as its latest victim, while James Maddison, who hasn’t even made an England squad since earning his solitary cap three years ago, earns a long-awaited recall. His added versatility, dead-ball quality and output in front of goal get him the nod ahead of Jack Grealish, from whom the hype is yet to be justified.

Ben Grounds: Bowen, Loftus-Cheek offer something different

Jarrod Bowen is denied by Willi Orban
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Jarrod Bowen has four England caps

Ben Grounds’ 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
  • Defenders: Luke Shaw, Ryan Sessegnon, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Conor Coady, Ben White.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson.
  • Forwards: Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Callum Wilson, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Jarrod Bowen.

Jordan Henderson gets in if Kalvin Phillips cannot prove his fitness in time while the same can be said of Trent Alexander-Arnold if Reece James falls short in his own battle to recover.

Kyle Walker is still not guaranteed to be in contention from the off, but should England reach the latter stages against the better nations with formidable pace in attack, his condition is worth risking given the additional spaces in the squad.

Ben White’s versatility means he is included in the worst-case scenario that Walker suffers a setback and Southgate opts to deploy three at the back. White’s defensive awareness as the right-sided centre-back would then compliment Kieran Trippier’s offensive thrust.

Alexander-Arnold is a better player to have as an option than another shuffling midfielder in James Ward-Prowse, whose form has dipped at the wrong time, while I don’t see when Southgate would turn to James Maddison given the other attacking options at his disposal.

The same cannot be said of Jarrod Bowen nor Ruben Loftus-Cheek, arguably the biggest surprises in this squad, but the West Ham forward fits more naturally into a front three than a Maddison, while Loftus-Cheek has shown he can play in multiple positions and is someone Southgate has monitored closely for several seasons.

The injury-prone Callum Wilson is a risk but the Newcastle striker has timed his run to perfection. Having a player in form to call upon if Harry Kane needs support is certainly something Ivan Toney too could offer but it is Wilson’s understanding with Trippier – a likely route to goal – that plays in his favour.

Dan Sansom: Elliott in, but no place for Sancho

Harvey Elliott
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Harvey Elliott has never played for England’s senior side

Dan Sansom’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Ben White, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Kieran Trippier.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Harvey Elliott, Mason Mount, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Ivan Toney, Callum Wilson.

With Reece James unlikely to be fit for the tournament, Trent Alexander-Arnold is included as a creative option at right-back. That position can also be filled by the more defensively-disciplined Ben White and Kyle Walker, with the latter hopeful of recovering from groin surgery in time for England’s opening game against Iran on November 21.

Luke Shaw’s impressive performances in recent weeks mean he is likely to be Gareth Southgate’s first-choice left-back. Kieran Trippier can fill in for Shaw on the left-hand side if required.

Despite Kalvin Phillips’ campaign being disrupted by injuries, he can still play an important role if fit so is included in the squad. A surprise but justifiable call is the inclusion of Liverpool teenager Harvey Elliott as an extra midfield option, while James Maddison also gets a call-up for starring in a struggling Leicester team.

Jadon Sancho continues to struggle for consistency so he misses out again, but his Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford is on the plane to Qatar after his return to form.

Up front, Brentford striker Ivan Toney and Newcastle forward Callum Wilson both deserve to be Harry Kane’s understudies after their impressive starts to the Premier League season.

Laura Hunter: Abraham favoured over Toney

Tammy Abraham
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Tammy Abraham has been Gareth Southgate’s favoured understudy for Harry Kane

Laura Hunter’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Reece James, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Eric Dier, Fikayo Tomori, Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, James Ward-Prowse, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Conor Gallagher, Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka.
  • Forwards: Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson.

The squad’s periphery players are where the most interesting or disputable talking points lie. Presuming all named players are fit, the England XI largely picks itself – regardless of form. It’s clear that Gareth Southgate wants to stick by Harry Maguire. It would also be no surprise to see Raheem Sterling starting in Qatar despite his imperfect Premier League performances.

A rejuvenated Marcus Rashford has done enough to earn a recall, while Tammy Abraham is a handy alternative. That means Ivan Toney misses out, but his surge has arrived marginally too late to sufficiently integrate into a well-knit squad. The world stage is not the place to be trying untested talent. Besides, my wild card is Callum Wilson – who has at least registered a goal in an England shirt. I also can’t see James Maddison usurping any of Southgate’s current attacking midfield crop – therefore his inclusion would be redundant.

Kalvin Phillips is an unlucky absentee but an impossible pick given his lack of minutes this season. Then there’s the Trent Alexander-Arnold conundrum. Irrespective of the fact that by design his progressive style does not align with Southgate’s pragmatism, his talent is enough to warrant involvement – especially if Reece James ends up missing out with injury.

Sam Blitz: Gallagher in over returning Phillips

Conor Gallagher shows his disappointment after England's 4-0 loss
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Conor Gallagher has broken into Chelsea’s first-team this season

Sam Blitz’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben White, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Fikayo Tomori.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Conor Gallagher, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount.
  • Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Callum Wilson, Marcus Rashford.

Were it not for Reece James’ injury, Trent Alexander-Arnold wouldn’t be in my England squad based on performances and where he fits into this England set-up. But James’ unlikeliness to play in Qatar has opened up a space for him, but I fully expect Kieran Trippier to start most of England’s games at right-back or right wing-back.

I’d have no problem taking Kyle Walker, given this is a 26-man squad and you can take one or two injury doubts. But Kalvin Phillips doesn’t make my squad this time around, despite his Euro 2020 heroics. Marcus Rashford showed last season that shoulder injuries are not just hard to recover from but it does take a while to get back into form. Phillips didn’t have enough minutes before his injury anyway, he’s far too off the pace.

That brings Conor Gallagher into the fold for me, who is starting to put on a run of appearances at Chelsea and is a nice alternative to bring off the bench if Mason Mount or Jude Bellingham need switching out. Jordan Henderson, who is expected to have a back-up role anyway this winter, can be cover for Declan Rice in the number six role.

Up front, Marcus Rashford is getting back up to his best and his goal against West Ham shows how much hunger he has. Ivan Toney was in my England squad up until a few weeks ago, but Callum Wilson’s form is too hard to ignore. Gareth Southgate knows him, likes him and he’s done enough to get on the plane.

The only other change from recent England squads is Ben White’s inclusion whose form, like Wilson’s, is too hard to ignore.

Zinny Boswell: Maddison impossible to ignore

James Maddison celebrates after scoring Leicester's third goal against Wolves
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James Maddison has one England cap, which came in 2019

Zinny Boswell’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Eric Dier, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden.

Callum Wilson sneaks in ahead of Ivan Toney as Harry Kane’s back-up because he is peaking at just the right time and the Brentford striker is yet to make an England appearance.

Marcus Rashford’s return to form means only one other striking option is necessary.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek makes the plane owing to his versatility, with the 26-year-old filling in at right wing-back a distinct possibility because of England’s raft of full-back injuries.

James Maddison is a wildcard option, having been overlooked by Gareth Southgate since making his debut in 2019, but his goal and assists return is impossible to ignore.

James Maddison has had the most goal involvements of any English player in the Premier League since August 2021
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James Maddison has had the most goal involvements of any English player in the Premier League since August 2021

Pep Guardiola says Man City duo Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker will be fit, so I am deciding to trust his judgement, but on the fence about including Reece James with his injury status unclear.

James would be my first-choice at right-back if injury were not a concern, but with so many players seemingly carrying knocks into the tournament I have had to go with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Kieran Trippier is a starter at right-back, but the Newcastle full-back could likely be pulled over to left-back if Luke Shaw needs a rest following Ben Chilwell’s injury, with no ideal candidates to replace him.

Harry Maguire is lucky to be involved on club form, but has rarely let England down and there are few options to displace him at centre-back.

Dev Trehan: Toney, Elliott, Sessegnon make the cut

Ivan Toney
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Ivan Toney was included in the last England squad, but is yet to be capped

Dev Trehan’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Ben White, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Conor Coady, Kieran Trippier.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harvey Elliot, Ryan Sessegnon.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Ivan Toney, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka.

Ivan Toney gets the nod ahead of Tammy Abraham and Callum Wilson as an orthodox number nine to act as Harry Kane’s understudy in Qatar. Toney’s all-round play will make him a handful for any defender – and the striker has an iron nerve when it comes to taking penalties, which could come in handy, if, as expected, England reach the latter stages of the tournament.

Ben White’s Arsenal form and his ability to also provide a right-sided option sees him make the plane to Doha. With Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips yet to prove their fitness, Walker gets the nod out of the two, given his importance to Southgate and this England side.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Coady earn spots in my 26-man squad. Coady is comfortable playing in a back three – both he and Alexander-Arnold are also capable of stepping into midfield, which could prove useful given Phillips’ omission.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek also makes the cut for this squad. It’s hard to believe Loftus-Cheek is only 26 given he has been talked about for over a decade. Loftus-Cheek has the complete package as a midfielder and can offer cover in other positions if needed, making him good value to go to his second World Cup.

Young guns and Fulham academy graduates Ryan Sessegnon and Harvey Elliott are my wildcard picks to go to the World Cup. Ben Chilwell’s absence leaves England noticeably short on the left side, and the resurgent Sessegnon could provide a more natural replacement for Luke Shaw should the Manchester United left-back succumb to injury or suspension during the tournament.

Elliott has an abundance of natural ability and the left-footer offers Southgate another versatile option. The 19-year-old can play in midfield and in his preferred position on the right of a front three, but can also offer an attacking wing-back threat, having filled in for Andy Robertson on occasions when Liverpool have been chasing games. Bukayo Saka is another attacking wing-back option for Southgate in Qatar.

Charlotte Marsh: Sancho, Calvert-Lewin to miss out

England's Jadon Sancho reacts after he missed to score during the penalty shootout of the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy at Wembley
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Jadon Sancho has been out of favour for England since the Euros

Charlotte Marsh’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Fikayo Tomori, Conor Coady James Justin.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson, Tammy Abraham.

You don’t anticipate too many shocks from Southgate, who has in his tenure so far been known for his consistency and loyalty – even perhaps if some players do not warrant it.

However, it is hard to foresee a place for Jadon Sancho on the plane to Qatar. He has been average at best since moving to Manchester United last summer, especially compared to the form at Borussia Dortmund that saw him earn his spot at Euro 2020.

The tournament may come too soon for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He has been hampered by injury in 2022 and is yet to make an appearance for England this calendar year.

While he is back in the Everton squad and picking up vital minutes, the World Cup may come too soon for the striker to be included. Southgate is likely to opt for others who have played more this season, such as Marcus Rashford and Callum Wilson, who may be hitting form at the right time to be included in his first major tournament squad.

There are still question marks over the fitness of Man City duo Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips, but you would expect them to be included if they are ready. James Maddison is a clear-cut choice too and given his form, it’s hard to see how he could be left out of Southgate’s squad.

Ben Chilwell’s injury does narrow Southgate’s options at left-back and there could be another call-up for Leicester’s James Justin on the cards. He can play in either full-back position and as a wing-back, offering the versatility that Southgate likes to opt for.

Adam Smith: Trent inclusion pointless

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been left out of England's squad to face Germany in their last competitive fixture before the World Cup
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Trent Alexander-Arnold missed out on Euro 2020 with injury

Adam Smith’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Reece James, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Cresswell, Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Eric Dier, Ben White.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, Conor Gallagher, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford, Callum Wilson.

I have picked a squad which aligns with Gareth Southgate’s style and preferences and refrained from selecting too many last-minute curveballs.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is a world-class player, but his inclusion seems pointless when there are numerous alternatives who can fit into the manager’s game plan. However, I’d turn to the Liverpool man if Kyle Walker or Reece James fail to recover from injury in time. Who wouldn’t?

I’d expect Luke Shaw or Kieran Trippier to take the left-back starting berth, but Aaron Cresswell has produced impressive numbers for crosses and creating chances for a long time, which are at career-highs this term – despite failing to notch an assist in this league campaign.

I would have liked to see Ivan Toney, James Maddison, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek tested before the World Cup. That said, I’d still take the latter pair.

Loftus-Cheek offers versatility, skill and mettle, to ensure ample back-up in that position, while Maddison offers something completely different if backs are against the wall.

I selected Conor Gallagher because he fits into Southgate’s system, has recent international experience and excels at defensive and attacking duties, while his relentless pressing would rattle teams late in games.

Toney’s work-rate and penalty record could still provide an emergency option, but, with a small window of opportunity as Kane’s understudy, Callum Wilson gets my call – with experience in the camp and form to boot.

David Richardson: Loftus-Cheek preferred over Phillips

Ruben Loftus-Cheek during the International friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia

David Richardson’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Ben White, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Eric Dier, Conor Coady, Luke Shaw.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mason Mount, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Ivan Toney, Callum Wilson, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford.

I expect Gareth Southgate to call upon experience when selecting his World Cup squad – but injuries and form have forced his hand.

There’s no place for the injured Reece James with Ben White stepping in as cover at right-back or right centre-back. Kieran Trippier should start on that side with Trent Alexander-Arnold as second choice if Kyle Walker still needs more recovery time.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is on my plane as a back-up central midfield option instead of the injury-hit Kalvin Phillips. Loftus-Cheek started three matches at the last World Cup and has overcome his own fitness problems to feature regularly for Chelsea in the past 12 months. He can also fill-in at right-wing back if desperately needed.

James Maddison is included as a reserve for Mason Mount while Ivan Toney and Callum Wilson are the other new boys to earn their first tournament call-up. Both, particularly Toney, offer reliability from the penalty spot and are more in-form than Tammy Abraham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Dan Long: Wilson and Toney on the plane

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Callum Wilson has hit form at just the right time ahead of the World Cup

Dan Long’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Harry Maguire, Tyrick Mitchell, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White.
  • Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, James Ward-Prowse.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Ivan Toney, Callum Wilson.

There are no real surprises in defence, for me, but I think Ben White has to go. He has shown his versatility in several positions, both in defensive midfield and defence, over the last few seasons, which offers an extra option on the right-hand side should Reece James not recover in time to go to Qatar.

Ben Chilwell had been going as Luke Shaw’s understudy at left-back, but with an injury that rules him out of the tournament, I would bring in Tyrick Mitchell as an extra body, though there are several others who would likely slot in there ahead of him. I would, however, be selecting Rico Henry over him had the Brentford defender come into contention in previous squads throughout the year.

In midfield, Gareth Southgate has an abundance of riches at his disposal and, again, there are no real shock inclusions here. I do think the questions marks over James Maddison’s international future have to end here, though. He racked up 30 goal involvements for Leicester last term and has been the shining light in a struggling side this year, too. He deserves his chance.

Marcus Rashford really seems to be getting back into the groove now and the same can be said for Callum Wilson, so I’d be taking the pair of them as forwards, along with Ivan Toney, who was really unfortunate not to pick up his first cap after being included in the squad in September. The latter of the three is up there with the best penalty takers in the world right now, which is a huge bonus given England’s history.

With Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling already assured of a spot on the plane, these five forwards have over 30 Premier League goals between them already this term.

Oliver Yew: White, Wilson and Maddison play their way in

Leicester City's James Maddison during the Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Nottingham Forest at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Monday, Oct. 03, 2022. (AP Photo/Leila Coker)

Oliver Yew’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Ben White, Conor Coady, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Harry Kane, Callum Wilson, Ivan Toney, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden.

Gareth Southgate has an unenviable task as he looks to juggle a host of injury concerns heading to the World Cup.

Options at right-back have been decimated in recent weeks with Reece James and Kyle Walker both doubts for the tournament. Fitness dependent, James and Walker would both be in this squad, but if you had to take a gamble on one, it would be Walker for his experience and ability to play in a back three. What those injuries do is bring Trent Alexander-Arnold back into the fold, while Kieran Trippier’s ability to cover both right and left-back should suffice as cover for Luke Shaw.

The concerns over Harry Maguire’s lack of playing time at Man Utd have been right, but a lack of credible replacements means the defender stays in the squad. Ben White’s form for Arsenal cannot be ignored and his ability to cover a number of positions is a bonus.

Form also cannot be ignored when it comes to James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford, who get the nod for their performances so far in the Premier League, while Ivan Toney is the wildcard in this squad if England need a different option at any point in this tournament. His penalty record is another bonus.

Finally, there are big question marks over Kalvin Phillips’ fitness, but his ability to screen the back four could be useful for Southgate the deeper England go in the tournament. His inclusion is a gamble worth taking, especially with the luxury of a 26-man squad.

Declan Olley: Loftus-Cheek, Maddison and White make the plane

Ruben Loftus-Cheek during the International Friendly match between England and United States at Wembley Stadium on November 15, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.
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Ruben Loftus-Cheek last played for England in 2018

Declan Olley’s 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Ben White.
  • Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, Jordan Henderson, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, James Maddison, Mason Mount, Declan Rice.
  • Forwards: Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Ivan Toney, Callum Wilson.

With Reece James injured, Kieran Tripper would be my starting right-back be it in a back four or five with Trent Alexander-Arnold his back-up. If fit, Kyle Walker makes the squad due to his versatility as a centre-back in a back three, or as a right-back. Arsenal defender Ben White must be selected by Southgate as a reward for his strong performances this season for the Premier League leaders.

Following the injury to Ben Chilwell last week, Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Walker and White can all act as cover at left-back if Luke Shaw gets injured during the tournament, while my selection of midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek acts as further cover for the wing-back role, where he has played for Chelsea a lot this season.

The versatile Loftus-Cheek takes Kalvin Phillips’ place in the midfield department – the former Leeds player is still recovering from injury, has no form and, even prior to his shoulder surgery, has barely played for Manchester City this season. Meanwhile, James Maddison goes to Qatar thanks to his outstanding form since the start of last season.

In the forward department, Callum Wilson, thanks to his superb recent goal-scoring form for Newcastle, and Ivan Toney, with his impressive penalty record which could be key in a shootout, make my 26-man squad as Harry Kane’s deputies.

Lewis Jones: Dunk in over Coady

Lewis Dunk made his England debut in 2018 - but has never played for his country since
Image:
Lewis Dunk made his England debut in 2018 – but has not played for his country since

Lewis Jones’ 26-man England squad

  • Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope.
  • Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Ben White, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Eric Dier, Lewis Dunk.
  • Midfielders: Declan Rice, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount, James Ward-Prowse, James Maddison.
  • Forwards: Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Callum Wilson, Marcus Rashford, Ivan Toney.

Gareth Southgate’s main crux of this England squad picks itself really. There’s 20 certainties, maybe 21 if Reece James can get himself anywhere near 80 per cent fit towards the back end of the group stages. I’ve gone with Ben White as his replacement after showcasing his versatility of being able to play down the right and centrally in that defensive line.

My rogue shout is to include Lewis Dunk, who somehow has yet to catch the eye of Southgate despite being the bedrock of a Brighton defence that have posted defensive performance metrics aligned with the ‘big six’ over the last 18 months. I’m not sure Conor Coady brings more to the table.

Kieran Trippier can provide adequate cover for Ben Chilwell after his late injury ruled him out of the tournament. Instead of picking another left-back to cover for Luke Shaw, I’ve gone with James Maddison. He’s earned a spot on the plane thanks to his fine form for Leicester.

Callum Wilson, when fit, is the best English central striker behind Harry Kane so deserves his chance whilst Marcus Rashford is a player with unfinished business with the national team. He has the aura and confidence to take a World Cup by storm if things drop right. Jadon Sancho does not at this moment.

When it comes to the fringe players in a squad of this size that aren’t going to get many, if any, minutes then penalty-taking ability has to be factored in.

England have been in nine penalty shootouts at major international tournaments, identifying the likelihood of Southgate needing his best dead-ball specialists available to him. That’s why Ivan Toney and James Ward-Prowse have to be amongst the party.

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