I have decided to attempt to predict the England lineup for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – just for a bit of fun, and for myself to look back on. Many believe that this is the year England should be building a side for. So, you never know, this could be a World Cup-winning team we’re talking about here. Just a warning: some of this will more than likely be wrong.
Manager – Gareth Southgate
Although Southgate may not have had the best of starts with England, in my mind, this is a long-term appointment the FA have made. Southgate has had a shaky start as national team boss, with just 3 wins from his opening 8 games. However, he has maintained England’s impressive long-standing unbeaten run in qualifying matches, which has now stretched to 35.
The job on Southgate’s hands is to improve England’s dismal form in competitions – they haven’t won a single knockout game in over a decade, since beating Ecuador in the 2006 World Cup. Seen as the former England international has worked with several England youths, having been England Under-21 manager for 3 years, Southgate is seen as the ideal man to integrate those players into the squad.
Here is the side I think we will go with:
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford
This was very tough. Joe Hart will certainly not still be the man between the sticks, so it was a toss-up between Pickford and Jack Butland – two keepers destined for big things. I have plunged for the Everton new boy purely because of his ability to play out from the back, which will become more prominent over the next few years, and is something he is currently much better at than Butland.
In his first season in the Premier League Pickford managed to star in a team that finished bottom of the league, a rarity for any keeper. But if you think about how good the young man is now, imagine the level he could be performing at in five years time – that is why he is my future England number 1.
Right wing-back – Trent Alexander-Arnold
Apart from Liverpool fans, this one may come as a surprise to many people. The youngster is very highly regarded on Merseyside, following a number of excellent performances for the youth teams, eventually leading to him becoming part of the first team fold. Given that Liverpool are back in the Champions League, I am expecting the right-back to feature much more, and push Nathaniel Clyne for a starting place.
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard tipped Alexander-Arnold to have a bright future in his autobiography, and I am not going to disagree with him. If current holder of the right-back position, Kyle Walker, can maintain his performance levels, he may well still be featuring come 2022.
Centre-back – John Stones
Over the next couple of seasons, Stones has to start proving that he can be one of the better centre-backs in the Premier League. We all know that Stones, 23, has undoubted talent, but he has to start showing it on a consistent basis.
The defender likes to play out of the back four, as opposed to lumping the ball forward, but he has made a few mistakes in positions where he just needs to defend properly first. If Stones can cut out the errors and improve his defensive game by becoming more of a physical presence, he will no doubt be in the England 2022 side.
Centre-back – Michael Keane (Captain)
Although Keane has only made two appearances for England, he was solid in his debut against Germany and followed that up with another accomplished performance against Lithuania. The Burnley man is a no-nonsense type of defender, which would complement John Stones very well. Keane enjoys the physical side of the game and is getting better each and every season, as he has already shown that he can match up well again some of the Premier League’s best strikers.
The centre-half is believed to be on the verge of a big-money move to Everton, where he will hopefully be able to establish himself as a first team regular. In five years time, I see Michael Keane being England’s most experienced centre-back, and that is why he is my choice to captain the team.
Centre-back – Reece Oxford
The West Ham youngster is still only 18-years-old, but he is regarded as one of England’s best young defensive talents. Oxford’s first team appearances in professional football have been fairly limited so far but he has impressed when given a chance. Like Stones, Oxford is another ball-playing defender, but other sides to his game are rapidly improving.
Many have likened him to a young Rio Ferdinand, so hopefully, he is some way to living up to that by the time this World Cup comes around. There is no doubt in my mind that Oxford will one day appear for the England senior side, so why should he not be a first choice centre-back in 2022.
Left wing-back – Ben Chilwell
The England Under-21 international is starting to make good strides with his career, even though he is not the first choice at Leicester yet. The left-back looks to be a solid defender, who has a desire to get forward at every opportunity, an incredibly important attribute in a 3-5-2 formation. Once he breaks through into a starting position for the Foxes, which will happen sooner rather than later, Chilwell will only go from strength to strength.
Given the youngsters potential, clubs such as Liverpool have been credited with an interest in recent times. Luke Shaw will likely be his biggest rival for the left wing-back spot, but I fancy Chilwell to claim it.
Centre midfield – Lewis Cook
I must admit, I’m not entirely convinced by this choice. It is more of a hunch than anything else. The Bournemouth midfielder is currently captain of the England Under-20s World Cup-winning side. He showed superb leadership during the recent tournament, and that is one of the main reasons why I believe he will be in the mix come 2022. Cook does have other notable attributes, though. The midfielder loves a challenge, breaks up play and drives forward well with the ball. Before he turned 20 earlier this year, Cook had already played 80 games for his previous club, Leeds.
The only issue I have with the youngster is that he is unproven at the top level – but he will soon get chances at Bournemouth. It was a tough choice between Cook and Harry Winks for this position, let’s hope both of their careers kick on over the next few years.
Centre midfield – Eric Dier
Still just 23, Eric Dier will be one of few mainstays from the current England starting lineup for me. The Spurs man has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years, establishing himself as a regular Premier League first team player in a team blessed with quality players.
Dier has cemented his place as one of the first names on the England team sheet, having now accumulated 19 caps. In this formation I would like Dier to sit in front of the defence, maintaining a nice balance in midfield alongside Cook, who will look to drive forward. I expect Eric Dier to play an important role as a senior member of the side.
Centre attacking midfield – Dele Alli
Dele Alli will surely still be a starting player in 2022, won’t he? I’m sure he will, but his performances for his country must dramatically improve. Alli is one of the players that are currently under criticism for not performing as well for his country as he does for his club, having scored just twice in 19 games. But let’s not get hasty here, the attacking midfielder only just turned 21 a couple of months back. Hopefully, Alli can soon capture the relationship he and Harry Kane enjoy for Spurs.
In this lineup, he has the important role of linking up play, but also of dropping back in to help his fellow midfield counterparts. There is no doubt in my mind – Alli will be in the 2022 side.
Striker – Harry Kane
Think about how good Harry Kane is already – and then think about how good he could be in five years time – when he should be in his prime. Kane will be in the England team, of course. Although the goal machine hasn’t found his scoring boots consistently for the national side yet, he has the potential to turn any game on its head.
In recent matches, Kane has shown signs that he is coming to grips with international football, having scored three times in his last two outings. Kane is already appearing to be one of the leaders of the side, after recently being given the armband for games against Scotland and France. If this England side is to have any success, Kane must be at the forefront of it.
Striker – Marcus Rashford
By 2022, Rashford will still only be 24 years old and his club career will be well on its way. The 19-year-old scored on his England debut but has failed to score in the eight appearances that have followed, most of which have come from the bench, to be fair. Rashford has shown an abundance of talent for Man United over the last year or so, and should only improve further over the next few seasons.
In this team, Rashford will need to get down the wings and in behind defences, in order for England to be able to stretch defences. The players I feel could rival Rashford for a place in the lineup are Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke.
Just to reiterate once again, some of the above predictions will more than likely be wrong. Let me know what you think the lineup could be.
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