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How might England line up for the Qatar 2022 World Cup?

Friday 16th February 2018

With Russia 2018 on the horizon, it's becoming easier by the game-week to predict which England alumni will be boarding that all-important plane come June.

Stars Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Dele Alli are already seen as dead-certs to make the grade, injuries permitting.

Impressive campaigns from Joe Gomez, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Jesse Lingard have elevated their status from 'outside contenders' to 'must travel' in the remaining spots of importance.

Logically, the job has been made easier by constant analysis of our domestic stars throughout the campaign by current England boss Gareth Southgate.

However, like most forward-thinking nations, the FA and Southgate should always have one eye on the next generation in order to become and remain successful.

Shortly after England's woeful 2014 World Cup exit, BBC Sport challenged Phil McNulty, Henry Winter, Oliver Kay, Martin Lipton and Daniel Taylor to predict how England could line up in 2018.

Naturally, the footballing world rejoiced after stumbling upon this three and a half years on, astonished at clamours for Jack Rodwell, Jon Flanagan and Karl Darlow amongst disappointingly consistent picks for Joe Hart, Calum Chambers and Daniel Sturridge.

Inspired by this, I have rather typically decided to lay heaps of pressure upon myself by attempting to predict the England national team come the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Gareth Southgate has quite the task in choosing a definitive first-choice goalkeeper at present, so the challenge for myself to look ahead four and a bit years appeared difficult on the surface.

Although Jordan Pickford is clearly technically gifted and Angus Gunn has signified his strong potential on loan at Norwich, Jack Butland could be England's safest pair of hands between the sticks.

The 24-year-old has bounced back from a major ankle injury to reclaim the number one jersey at Stoke and his consistent displays have earned him adoration from Potters fans. Bigger things look destined for the Bristolian and he can further reveal his class with a top-six club.

Defensively, I'm not anticipating a great deal of change from Southgate's current backline. Kyle Walker will be 32 years old, but he's a cut above England's current full-backs and should still be performing at the top level.  Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold has the credentials to go to the very top and should challenge at right back or central midfield.

Similarly, Danny Rose has shown remarkable consistency for club and country and it'd be a surprise if he wasn't involved, even at 31. While Luke Shaw will be talked up for many more years, Ben Chilwell is quietly locking down a place at Leicester and his hard-working displays could see him challenging for an England spot at 25. Ryan Sessegnon can lay claims, although it's difficult to judge if his future is further forward.

Elegant ball-playing leader John Stones could be the main contender to captain the nation come 2022 and I'd anticipate he could be partnered by Eric Dier, Joe Gomez or Phil Jones in central defence.

If England is to be a progressive nation, it's crucial that modern, intelligent central midfield players are afforded opportunities. Jake Livermore and Jack Cork don't quite fit that mould at present, but competition from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, James Ward-Prowse, Tom Davies and Harry Winks would be a step in the right direction.

Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson should still be floating around the squad, but 21-year-old Phil Foden could establish himself as an integral cog for Manchester City and his nation in the midfield.

Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli will be 27 and 25 respectively for Qatar 2022 and it's hard to look past them continuing to start for England. The dilemma comes from the remaining spot in an attacking sense. Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should remain in contention, Jesse Lingard could still offer valuable strength in off-the-ball movement, but young Jadon Sancho can dazzle at the age of 21 should his career follow the right path and could get a look in at this point.

Ending with the easiest position, Harry Kane has already scored over 100 Premier League goals at 24, it would be astonishing if he lost his place up front. The Three Lions aren't inundated with huge prospects to lead the line, but Marcus Rashford has all the attributes to remain a regular for years to come, while Tammy Abraham can make the grade provided his pathway isn't blocked.

Ryan Wilson

Total articles: 13

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