England’s 2018 World Cup squad did not age well

Ollie Irish

7th, July 2020

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The Athletic (subscription required but they put out some good stuff) reports that England manager Gareth Southgate might blood some uncapped youngsters in his side’s Nations League matches in September – England take on Iceland on 5th September, then Denmark three days later, both away from home.

The players mentioned are Mason Greenwood, Dean Henderson (both Man Utd), Phil Foden (Man City) and Bukayo Saka (Arsenal). That’s some huge potential right there. All four have the ability to step up and join other exciting youngsters like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford in the senior team. Suddenly Harry Kane (still only 26) and Raheem Sterling (25) are looking like veterans.

England’s incredible crop of young players is the talk of Europe, and it looks like Euro 2020’s postponement might allow several of them to feature in a major tournament for the first time. It’s a gift for Southgate but a puzzle too. Where England are very strong – potentially as strong as they’ve ever been – is in attack. There are troublesome areas, though – centre-back, defensive midfield – where the opposite is true. In midfield, for example, it looks like Jordan Henderson + two. Declan Rice, Harry Winks, _____ … who knows?

All of which speculation reminds us, how long ago the 2018 World Cup feels. Another era almost. Looking back at England’s squad then, and contrasting it with the talent at Southgate’s disposal now, you realise how fortunate the English were in reaching the semi-finals with, it has to be said, a mediocre, unbalanced squad. A refresher:

Of that 23, who will definitely make the Euros next summer? I would say: Pickford, Maguire, Henderson, Kane, Sterling, Rashford and Alexander-Arnold. That’s just seven players out of a squad that only two years ago got within one game of a World Cup final. How the landscape has changed.

On the plus side, England reached the last four of a World Cup with a squad that included Jesse Lingard, Jack Butland, Phil Jones and John Stones, so you can see why some bookies will have them as favourites for Euro 2020.

Posted in England, International football, World Cup

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