How England's starting XI should look at the 2022 World Cup

Jamie Spencer
England will go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar among the favourites
England will go to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar among the favourites / Ettore Ferrari - Pool/Getty Images

England have improved at successive major international tournaments under Gareth Southgate, from reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup to finishing as runners-up at Euro 2020, a first final in 55 long years.

The delay to Euro 2020 means that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is already just around the corner, scheduled for November and December of next year. England’s performance at Euro 2020 and the young age of the squad already makes them one of the favourites.

With a strong to qualification already and perhaps only a few tweaks needed to get England over the line, here’s a look at how the Three Lions should line up at the finals…

Jordan Pickford (GK)

Jordan Pickford, Jorginho
Jordan Pickford has been England number one at two major tournaments / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

Despite a reputation for making mistakes at club level with Everton, Pickford performed well at Euro 2020. Competition isn’t especially fierce to be England’s starting goalkeeper and, if he can hold off the threat of Dean Henderson, there is no reason he won’t still be number one in Qatar.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 28

Trent Alexander-Arnold (RB)

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold will be back if Southgate can work out how to use him / Stu Forster/Getty Images

Injury cost Alexander-Arnold a place in the Euro 2020 squad, although chances are he may not have started anyway because of a lack of defensive trust from Southgate. He remains one of the best right-backs in the world, however, and there has to be a way to fit him in.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 24

Harry Maguire (CB)

Harry Maguire
Harry Maguire made England better after returning from injury at Euro 2020 / Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images

If there was ever any doubt about Maguire being England’s best and most important centre-back, it was ended when the Manchester United captain returned from injury at the end of the group stage and made everything at the back that bit tighter.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 29

John Stones (CB)

John Stones
John Stones fits the ideal of a modern centre-back / Robin Jones/Getty Images

Rejuvenated at club level and international level. Stones is the ultimate modern ball-playing centre-back and is back on tract after appearing to lose his way at Manchester City after his success at the 2018 World Cup.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 28

Luke Shaw (LB)

Luke Shaw
Luke Shaw has worked hard to win back an England place / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Shaw has got his place back in the England side and looks determined not to let go of it this time. For all the talent at right-back, there is a distinct lack of depth on the left, although that doesn’t make the Manchester United star - who has now scored his first international goal - less worthy.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 27

Declan Rice (CM)

Declan RIce
Declan Rice looks destined for a career at the top / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Perhaps unlikely to still be a West Ham player by the time of the World Cup, Rice proved himself as England’s midfield engine at Euro 2020.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 23

Jude Bellingham (CM)

Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham is so good that his age doesn't matter / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Bellingham briefly became the youngest ever player at a European Championship. But age is only a number and the Borussia Dortmund teenager looks increasingly ready to become a starter, even if he will only be 19 at the World Cup – he could have surpassed 150 senior club games by then.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 19

Mason Mount (AM)

Mason Mount
Mason Mount is already a strong Chelsea's best player / Paul Ellis - Pool/Getty Images

Mason Mount has his critics but was still Chelsea’s player of the season for 2020/21. He has plenty of scope left to develop, while his Euro 2020 was interrupted and hampered by being forced to isolate and train alone for a week after England faced Scotland.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 23

Jadon Sancho (RW)

Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho completes his Man Utd transfer this summer / Lars Baron/Getty Images

Sancho got precious little game time this summer but is still very young and has plenty of time to make his mark. The winger will be in his second season with new club Manchester United when the World Cup comes around and will have more chance to earn trust from Southgate.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 22

Harry Kane (ST)

Harry Kane
Harry Kane will turn 30 a few months after the next World Cup / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The next World Cup will be Kane’s last international tournament before turning 30. There is every chance he could be closing in on England’s all-time goal record by then, and it will be his last chance to win a major competition with the Three Lions while still at his peak.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 29

Bukayo Saka (LW)

Bukayo Saka
Bukayo Saka is a special talent with incredible potential / FRANK AUGSTEIN/Getty Images

England have so many attacking options and the key is for Southgate to figure out a way to use them and get the best out of as many as possible. But Saka has already proven that he can make an impact at this level, while his penalty miss will only make him mentally stronger.

Age at 2022 World Cup: 21

For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!