England have just two games left before their World Cup opener against Iran in November and a disastrous run of form in this month’s Nations League fixtures has left Gareth Southgate with more questions than answers about his team.
It is difficult to make firm predictions on the composition of this party since Fifa have not even confirmed its size yet, with UEFA allowing extended squads of 26 players at Euro 2020 last summer after the stacking of post-Covid matches.
But zero wins – and zero goals from open play – in four games, including the worst home defeat in nearly a century – certainly gives food for thought.
Here, Standard Sport enforces the rule on players who have played for England this month and those still hoping to break in.
Question marks on his place put to bed by a solid end to the club season. The place in Qatar is assured and the jersey n°1 almost as secure.
Given the second half of this break to impress and drew praise from Southgate after the performance against Italy. Hard to be blamed for one of four dispatched against Hungary and now established as No.2.
Only member of the squad not to have played a minute in the last fortnight but still looks most likely to return to the 2018 World Cup No.3 role.
Certain to be part of the workforce but did not have a good break, terrorized by Jamal Musiala in Germany and poor against Hungary. The best use seems to be in a back three.
Used as a winger in the first game against Hungary, then left the side early as agreed after the last efforts in the Champions League. Southgate is running out of time to unleash their talent before Qatar but have to be on the plane.
Gave away a penalty within minutes of coming on as a substitute against Hungary but probably made most of the many right-backs to further his case. Perhaps favorite to start the World Cup opener now.
Injuries meant he was deployed as a makeshift left-back, but England need a specialist in that role and with James also capable of covering drop-offs, for all he’s noted by Southgate.
The debut was cruelly ended by an injury and not fit enough to feature again. It seems unlikely that he will be back in September if Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are fit.
Had a real night to forget against Hungary at Molineux, but given Harry Maguire’s form he is Southgate’s most reliable senior centre-back at present.
Demonstration of faith from Southgate to establish him in three successive matches. He still looked terribly out of form, but hammering against Hungary came without him in the team. Seems a cert but desperately needs to come back from the reborn break under Erik ten Hag.
Arrived at the camp injured, it’s a shame because he deserved more chance to impress after a superb season at AC Milan. Worth starting one of the two games in September.
Similar story to Tomori, though his only outing from the start was a retribution. He seems to have a big role to play going forward, but it’s easy to see how his chance might only come after Qatar.
Started the opener but didn’t feature again, even with the last two games played at Wolves’ ground. Has a reputation as a good tourist after not playing a minute at Euro 2020 but the emergences of Guehi, Tomori and Ben White mean that won’t be enough to justify his place in Qatar.
Perhaps he had the best fortnight of any English player. Performance levels throughout the season have been remarkable and the midfielder has crumbled in his absence against Hungary. Second name on the team roster, after Kane.
A fortnight which summed up his season, with troubles and setbacks denying him any rhythm and any chance to reform the partnership with Rice. Looks safe but needs to get back to shape and fitness quickly at the start of next season.
Another of the few that emerged with an improved reputation. Adds dynamism with the ability to win the ball high and the partnership with Rice looked promising at times.
The last outfielder offered a bar of opportunity to the Covid-gnawed Foden, hinting at his current position. Faces a crucial decision on the future of the club, but as things stand, it may take injuries to get high. Not an obvious role for him in Southgate’s systems either.
Did well against Italy but was knocked out of the final squad on the eve of Euro 2020 and hard to see how he finds his way into this one either. As he said himself, England have plenty of good set-piece takers.
Showed flashes in the No10 role against Italy after disappointing in Budapest. Arrives for a lot of flack but is another Southgate favorite and looks a very likely starter in Qatar.
He looked as tired as anyone at the end of the club’s season and well below his best in an England shirt, although he wasn’t alone. Will go to Qatar as a striker but Southgate’s willingness to use him as a winger could open up options if the squad is limited to 23.
Only featured late against Hungary after a Covid fight but emerged from the break as one of the winners as their rivals underperformed and Southgate cited his absence as a key factor in the poor performances.
Started with a brilliant performance in Hungary on his debut, but ended with a poor performance in the reverse match and was trailed at halftime. Maybe he hasn’t done enough in the competitive realm, but deserves another crack.
The best performance came from the bench in Germany as he unleashed England’s most threatening pass of the entire fortnight. The best use in Qatar can be as under-impact – and there’s no shame in that.
Another of Southgate’s trusted lieutenants, although he too has failed to live up to recent high standards for England jerseys. Has bank credit since last summer, however, and will start in Qatar.
Swelled his lines against Italy but really should have had more playing time. Stays in the box to be Kane’s understudy but vulnerable.
His 50th England goal was the only joyous moment in four matches. Maybe he’ll have to wait for Qatar to break Wayne Rooney’s record now and if these games go ahead, he’ll have to be surpassed if England are to lift the World Cup.
Sam Johnson and Dean Henderson could both be on the move this summer and could pressure Pope for the third keeper spot if he starts the season well with new clubs.
At least one and maybe both Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell will surely go to the World Cup if he is fit. The fact that Southgate did not turn to Tyrick Mitchell in their absences this month suggests he is unlikely to make the cut.
Ben White retired with injury after being initially chosen. His ability to play across the lines could come into effect if he takes part in the September matches, although his chances of going to Qatar may depend on the size and balance of the squad. Tyrone Ming fell out of favor with Eric Dier a more reliable option if Southgate were to look beyond those initially named in this squad. Joe Gomez has the potential to struggle but can’t get a game in his preferred Liverpool position.
Jordan Henderson was rested for those matches and will return in September, his leadership having been missed. Emile Smith Rowe impressed to return to the U21s and may be worth a call-up if he starts the season well with Arsenal, although he is another who needs injuries to make the cut. It appears too late in the day to James Madisonwhich Southgate clearly doesn’t like.
England boss says Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho “have a lot to do” to make the plane, although it is not difficult to see either reborn under Ten Hag and their rivals have not escaped during this break.
Up front, any of a handful of forwards – Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkinssame Callum Wilson – will feel they still have a chance to play second fiddle to Kane if they get into action in August.