Gareth Southgate’s England side begin their World Cup campaign against Tunisia in Group G on June 18.
The Three Lions are big favourites to get the tournament off to a perfect start with a win, but Southgate has a decision to make on what starting eleven he’ll name.
Jordan Pickford is England’s first-choice and should get the nod over Jack Butland and Nick Pope. He should be joined by Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, John Stones in a three-man defence.
Walker will provide the necessary pace to cover the right-back area if it’s left vacant while Maguire will dominate aerially, making up for Walker and Stones’ shortcomings. Stones will be the ball-player, helping to retain possession and build from the back, while also covering the left-back slot if the wing-back vacates his position.
Kieran Trippier will be a makeshift right wing-back, providing the width and distribution in the final third. As a natural right-back, he will be more defensive sound and tactically aware, meaning he shouldn’t be caught high up the pitch.
Jordan Henderson will be one of the first names in the side due to a dearth of good midfielders. The Liverpool captain has good distribution, can dictate the tempo in the middle of the park and has fantastic energy to ensure England aren’t overrun.
Eric Dier is a necessary midfielder to play alongside Henderson as he will provide more defensive stability. He can drop into centre-back if needed and is a tidy footballer who shouldn’t take risks in possession.
Ashley Young has earned his spot in the England squad after being a reliable performer at left-back. Given he’s spent his career primarily as a winger, Young’s switch to a wing-back for the World Cup should make him a good fit.
He’s still pacey and hasn’t lost his fitness for the demanding role, so he could be key to England getting quality balls into the box for the striker.
Dele Alli’s relationship with both Dier and Harry Kane make him an important player in the squad. The Tottenham midfielder has a good eye for goal and will work between the lines to pull defences apart. If Alli can link up with Kane, the pair could produce goals for England.
Off-the-ball movement is key for England’s possession-based style to become more than just aimlessly keeping the ball, and Alli is one of the players key to making this work. The 22-year-old contributed 19 league goals in 2017/18.
Raheem Sterling is another player key to the Three Lions’ World Cup hopes. The Manchester City forward is coming off the back of a fantastic season, scoring and creating 29 goals in 33 league games, and could be prolific if he gets good service.
If he looks to beat the offside trap and is always running off the ball, he’ll help to create space and pull players out of position. And after scoring 18 goals in the top-flight last season, Sterling has proven he’s got an end product to make him a threat.
Harry Kane is undoubtedly England’s best hope of any success. The Tottenham striker scored 30 goals last season and has 12 in 23 games for the national team. If the service is good, he’s proven he’ll score, but his teammates have to support him in attack.
England XI: Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones; Trippier, Henderson, Dier, Young; Alli, Sterling; Kane