England’s World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign resumes this September
Are you over it yet? England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final was only seven weeks ago but it is already time to resume the World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign.
The tournament itself, to be held in Qatar next winter, is only 14 months away and Gareth Southgate’s side can secure qualification this autumn. Either way, it will be here before you know it.
That quick turnaround means many of the players who achieved England’s best tournament finish in 55 years are likely to be involved again, provided they build on a perfect start to Group I and qualify.
Who can already be confident of a place, so long as England get there? Who is in contention? Who has work to do and who are the ones to watch?
As our focus turns to Qatar, The Independent runs through the candidates…
On the plane
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford
Kane started slowly at Euro 2020 and did not quite explode in the way he might have hoped, perhaps because of all the uncertainty around his future, but four goals was a decent tournament return.
Cast any doubts about his importance to Southgate’s England aside with a series of man-of-the-match performances during the summer. As integral as Kane to how the attack operates.
Played his way into Uefa’s team of the tournament once he returned from a knee injury. What Maguire lacks for in pace and agility, he makes up in practically every other area of his game. His passing and carrying the ball from out the back are particularly useful.
One of England’s players of the tournament, almost turning the shoot-out around with the save from Jorginho. His place has been called into question, especially after dips of form with Everton, but as Southgate regularly points out he has never let his country down.
A key part of England’s spine at just 22-years-old, Rice feels like he will be a mainstay in midfield for years to come. His range of passing could improve but he has made the role of disruptor-in-chief his own.
Perhaps came away from the summer slightly disappointed as the tournament never really started for him after ending the season so well with Chelsea. Southgate’s admiration of his talents is not in doubt, though.
The first English player in 55 years to score in a major international tournament final, Shaw’s goal capped a remarkable turnaround at international level, to the point where he is Southgate’s undisputed first-choice at left back.
England forward Jack Grealish
Excellent at the Euros. His recovery pace brought a new dimension to England’s game, allowing Southgate to play further up the pitch. Walker has come a long way since being left out of the squad entirely two years ago.
Yet to feature for City this season after returning late and picking up a minor injury. Competition for a place at club level is a concern but there is no doubt that he is the preferred partner to Maguire with his country.
Began the Euros as a starter then slipped onto the sidelines, only playing three times in all. A foot injury prevented him from taking part in the final and this first camp back but he has a bright future ahead of him at international level.
A debutant this time last year, Phillips started every game this summer and impressed along the way. Despite a lack of experience at the very highest level, he has a unique range of attributes among England’s current crop of midfielders.
Saka may now be a household name but he is unlikely to let the penalty miss define him. That he was trusted by Southgate to take that decisive kick at just 18-years-old demonstrates the belief in his ability, which was borne out in his performances.
The maverick genius who gradually began to gain his manager’s trust. Grealish’s talents were only seen in glimpses, and he did not always make the impact he threatened to, but his £100m move to Manchester City could bring his game to a whole new level.
A senior figure in the squad and dressing room, enjoyed scoring his first international goal against Ukraine, but lost his automatic starting place to Phillips. At an age where this next tournament could be his last.
Trippier became Southgate’s special teams player, deployed to counteract the opposition’s specific tactical game plan. It worked well against Croatia, Germany and against Italy, to begin with at least. His set-piece delivery is another plus.
Used sparingly during the summer, which invited questions over how he fits into Southgate’s system. Going by statistical output, he is probably England’s most potent attacking option out wide but that does not always suit his manager’s gameplan.
Played fewer minutes than Sancho and failed to start once. Rashford still has a huge role to play in this squad’s future at 23-years-old, though, and will hope that surgery on a long standing shoulder problem helps him get back to his best quickly.
Revealed that doubts over his selection pre-tournament took a mental toll on him but proved critics wrong with two solid displays while standing in for Maguire against Croatia and Scotland. His left-footedness is valuable to Southgate.
England midfielder Jude Bellingham
The future of England’s midfield has made a strong start to the season with Dortmund. It will be interesting to see whether the new tournament cycle persuades Southgate to start him between now and the end of the qualifying campaign.
Only played once during the summer and did not seize his chance, struggling to break down a stubborn Scotland side, but James is highly regarded within the set-up. Offers versatility as a right-back, wing-back or right-sided centre half.
After all the talk that he would be left out, Alexander-Arnold was selected for the final squad by Southgate then ruled out of the tournament through injury. It is still hard to know where he fits into this set-up but his recall for this camp is a promising start.
England’s player of the tournament despite not playing a minute, according to assistant Steve Holland. An important presence in the dressing room and around the camp, everyone at St George’s Park speaks highly of the Wolves captain.
The reality of playing second fiddle to Kane may have dawned on Calvert-Lewin during the summer, as he made just two substitute appearances coming in at less than 20 minutes. Misses this camp through a toe injury.
The most surprising name among the three outfield players not to play a minute this summer. Chilwell is also still waiting to turn out for Chelsea and will hope to get back soon, having missed out on this squad.
Unlucky to miss out on a Euros spot through injury. Pope was given the opportunity to oust Pickford during the March internationals but struggled with the ball at his feet, which has always been the drawback to his aerial and shot-stopping abilities.
Dropped down to the Championship with West Bromwich Albion but retained as third-choice goalkeeper for this squad, Johnstone will fancy his chances of keeping his place if Henderson and Ramsdale do not earn regular minutes at club level.
Work to do
England defender Ben White
Called up for the first time, Bamford is the only new face in the September squad. Competition up front is limited to being Kane’s back-up but he could push ahead of Calvert-Lewin in that race if he impresses during this camp.
Left out of this squad despite starting the season brilliantly, Southgate wants Greenwood to remain with Manchester United rather than rush him back to the fold. The England manager insists there are no concerns over a potential switch of allegiances to Jamaica.
Lingard was disappointed to miss out on the final Euros squad, given how well he ended the season with West Ham, but is back for these qualifiers. Whether he retains his place depends on his playing time at United, where he will remain until January at least.
Preferred to Ward-Prowse when Alexander-Arnold dropped out of the final squad, White did not manage to get on the pitch during the tournament itself. A £50m move to Arsenal has enhanced his reputation and the scrutiny on his performances.
Ward-Prowse was Southgate’s captain in the Under-21s and his unique set-piece ability could be a real weapon in tournament football, though he has work to do to get back into the fold after being cut from the final Euros squad and missing this one.
Withdrew from the Euros squad with a hip injury, then fell to a bout of Covid and is working his way back to challenge David de Gea for United’s No 1 spot again. If not playing regularly for his club, his international ambitions will suffer.
Injury-free but working his way back to fitness after knee surgery. If he returns to the heart of Liverpool’s defence, could challenge for a starting spot with England, especially if Stones’ minutes come under threat.
Another who missed out on the final cut in the summer, Watkins has a lot of competition around him for a place up front. His start to season with Aston Villa has been delayed due to a knee injury.
A slightly surprising call-up to the provisional Euros squad despite a strong debut year at Everton, Godfrey is yet to make an appearance under Rafa Benitez due to isolation and fitness issues.
Called up last October, Barnes missed the tail end of last season through a knee injury. Must find consistency in his performances with Leicester before he can push past the many options Southgate has in attack.
Third-choice goalkeeper at the Euros following Pope and Henderson’s withdrawals, Ramsdale is likely to spend much of the season on the substitutes’ bench at Arsenal before the planned succession of Bernd Leno next season.
England striker Danny Ings
Gone but not forgotten, Abraham always posted strong numbers at Chelsea before falling out of favour under Thomas Tuchel and started well at Roma with Jose Mourinho’s guidance. Will hope that just because he is out of sight does not mean he is out of mind.
Secured a surprise £30m move to Villa, who were flush with their Grealish money, but age and injury record work against Ings. A season as strong as his 2019-20 campaign with Southampton could see him force his way back into Southgate’s plans.
Endured a difficult start to the season, being at fault for goals against Southampton and Leeds. Question of whether he has the pace and the ability on the ball to be a regular fixture in England’s defence has always hampered attempts to break into the side.
Highly-rated within the England set-up but struggling for regular playing time at Chelsea and not part of the Under-21s this September through his own choice. Facing an uncertain future at club and international level. Eligible to switch to Ghana.
Left out of the provisional Euros squad in favour of White and Godfrey after a difficult season with Tottenham. Playing regularly under Nuno Espirito Santo for now but Cristian Romero’s arrival is a threat to his place.
Southgate treats his mavericks like it’s the ‘No Homers Club’: he is allowed one. With that position taken, it is difficult to see how Maddison pushes himself further up the pecking order without producing at the level Grealish did last season.
Earned rave reviews for his performances on loan at Milan last season and played well enough to earn a permanent move, yet not well enough to change Southgate’s thinking before the Euros. The England manager did admit to having him in his thoughts, though.
Like Ings, Wilson’s scoring record is solid but his injury history and age are not in his favour, though he is only a year or so older than Bamford. Still, Greenwood, Calvert-Lewin and Watkins are all younger and more readily available.
Earned his first call-up after moving to United two years ago but reservations over his attacking play and elements of his defensive game mean Southgate’s many other right-backs are ahead of him in the queue. Eligible to switch to DR Congo.
Another player in need of a fresh start, Winks has one brief substitute appearance to his name from Tottenham’s opening three league games. A change of scenery may be required before a return to the international fold.
Broke into the squad as a utility man this time last year but facing an uncertain future at Arsenal after being denied a move to Everton and venting his frustration on Instagram. Yet to nail down a defined role.
Ones to watch
England Under-21s midfielder Curtis Jones
Now playing regularly again, if Alli can rediscover the form of old then he will be difficult for Southgate to ignore. His best was several years ago now, and England’s set-up may well have moved on, but his ability is not in question.
Arsenal’s No 10 has a tall order on his hands helping to turn their fortunes around but Mikel Arteta’s side improved upon his introduction midway through last season. More production needed when compared to some of his rivals in the same age bracket.
Forced his way into Jurgen Klopp’s midfield rotation last season and impressed. With the exits of Gini Wijnaldum and Xherdan Shaqiri, and the lack of replacements coming through the market, more opportunities should arise this term.
Elliott enjoyed a productive year on loan at Blackburn last season and has broken into Liverpool’s starting line-up, taking up the vacancy left by Wijnaldum. Promoted up an age group to the Under-21s by new head coach Lee Carsley.
Promoted to Tottenham’s starting line-up by Nuno, Skipp was instrumental to Norwich’s promotion last season. More steady than spectacular in possession but a shortage of genuine midfield options could help his cause.
Hoping to follow in Bamford and Watkins’ footsteps by adapting to the top flight after scoring in the second tier. Toney is already 25-years-old and will be approaching his prime by the time of Qatar but has a lot of competition for a spot.
One of the brighter sparks in West Bromwich’s relegation campaign last time around, Gallagher will now enjoy a second season of regular Premier League minutes and has started well on loan at Crystal Palace.
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