England have qualified for the 2024 European Championship with a 3-1 win over Italy but the hard work has only just begun.
Over the rest of the season, stars have the opportunity to prove to Gareth Southgate why they should be on the plane to Germany.
We know that Southgate has quite a settled view of what constitutes an England squad – certain regulars always have a place, no matter how their club form ebbs and flows.
Eight of the starters against Italy were in his first XV back in the Euro 2020 final.
There are still question marks, though, and this international break has seen fresh debutants blooded into the team in the form of Levi Colwill and Eddie Nketiah.
Keeping in mind Southgate’s usual preferences but also the season to come, Mail Sport predicts who will be fastening their seat belts on the plane.
Gareth Southgate has plenty to ponder when picking his 26-man England squad for the Euros
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Jordan Pickford – Despite the woe Everton have experienced in recent Premier League seasons, Pickford has been a constant between the sticks for England. Southgate trusts him. His acrobatics and penalty saves have stood out for the national side.
Nick Pope – There’s a strong case to be made for Pope dislodging Pickford as England’s No 1. Adding Champions League football to his portfolio helps his case and he consistently outranks his rival in save percentages tables.
Sam Johnstone – He was handed his first England outing in a couple of years against Australia. With Aaron Ramsdale looking like he will play second fiddle to David Raya, Johnstone could steal his spot if he can keep Dean Henderson out of the Crystal Palace line-up.
Jordan Pickford is a regular under Gareth Southgate and even as Everton falter, it is hard to see Gareth Southgate losing trust in him
Aaron Ramsdale could go but David Raya’s presence at Arsenal jeopardises his position
John Stones – England’s undisputed best centre back. Under Pep Guardiola he has come on leaps and bounds – not only as a visionary and tactical shapeshifter, but as a solid rock.
Harry Maguire – The 30-year-old hardly got a kick for Manchester United last season and still clutches his national team place, so there is little to suggest that will change. Revived talk of a January move away from Old Trafford suggests he could get consistent football this campaign and Southgate has always liked him.
Marc Guehi – The silky smooth centre back is pulling up trees for Crystal Palace and has forced his way into Southgate’s set-up. He has already captained the Eagles despite being 23 and is confident on the ball.
Fikayo Tomori – Though his international career hasn’t quite taken off – he only has four caps and was excluded from the 23-man squad against Italy – Tomori has done enough at AC Milan to warrant a ticket to the Euros.
Kieran Trippier – A fantastic all-rounder who can play in either full-back position. His free-kick pedigree with England has not been forgotten. Trippier offers creative input but is gritty at the back, especially after a spell at Atletico Madrid.
Marc Guehi is a rising defensive star and looks like a future fixture in the England line-up
Levi Colwill has been impressive and debuted against Australia but Euro 2024 might be too early for him with Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell as established left backs
Kyle Walker – Seventy-eight England caps and counting since 2011. He’s seen it all with the Three Lions. Even at 33, he remains a model of athletic prowess. No doubt he’s going if he remains injury-free.
Reece James – Injury problems have always blighted James and he missed the Qatar World Cup because of a knee issue, but there’s no denying the dynamism and determination of Chelsea’s captain. A clever player who is a shoe-in when available.
Luke Shaw – Brings more experience than Ben Chilwell, usually his main rival at left back. How he gets on in an insipid Man United outfit this campaign remains to be seen, but he has developed into a fine player.
Ben Chilwell – Chelsea’s left back is another good all-rounder and has made Stamford Bridge his home. He has been England’s first-choice left-back in the past and will hope to clinch that spot after returning from injury.
Jude Bellingham – The best player in the world this season? Only some grave administrative error would keep the golden boy of the Bernabeu out of Southgate’s squad. He can do almost anything with a football.
Declan Rice – He has stepped up to the plate at Arsenal without breaking stride. Showing leadership qualities beyond his years and a gleefulness in playing the holding role, he makes a perfect counterweight to the more marauding Bellingham.
Jordan Henderson – One of the more inflammatory options. England fans booed him off against Australia because of his move to Saudi Arabia, but Southgate will stick by his man and has publicly supported him. Henderson has been a valiant leader for England and brings qualities that cannot be ignored – great passing, industriousness, and organisational skills.
England fans booed Jordan Henderson but he is a strong leader and Southgate trusts him
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Southgate has left Alexander-Arnold out of the England squad in the past but he is too unique not to take to a tournament. While he has never resolved defensive questions, his crossing and cross-field balls create chances out of nothing.
Kalvin Phillips – Featured against Italy and retains the favour of Southgate even though he hardly plays a club game nowadays. He started every game at Euro 2020 and was England Men’s Player of the Year in 2021. He brings a much-needed edge.
James Maddison – England’s resident cheeky-chappy has unlocked new levels at Spurs and has forced his way back into Southgate’s potential starting XI. On his current form he has to go, leaving little midfield room for the likes of James Ward-Prowse and Mason Mount.
Gareth Southgate stands by Kalvin Phillips and he was voted England’s best player in 2021
Harry Kane – Need we say anything here? In case he needed to firm up his place, he has scored nine goals in his first 10 games for Bayern Munich. Maybe he can help the team navigate Germany with his new linguistic skills!
Ollie Watkins – The pick of the supporting cast behind Kane because of his flying form this season. He’ll likely be in a dogfight with Callum Wilson and Ivan Toney when he’s back – perhaps even Jarrod Bowen too, Southgate likes him down the middle – but his winner against Australia helped his case.
Bukayo Saka – North London’s darling has been as electrifying as ever this campaign and he is putting in world-class performances. His form for England this year has been fantastic, too, with four goals in six games.
Raheem Sterling – Once a nailed-on certainty, Sterling is no guarantee for England next summer. He hasn’t played for his country this year. But he is a rare bright spot for an ailing Chelsea and usually steps up when it matters for England. He’s still one of our best players on paper.
Raheem Sterling has abundant quality but has not featured for England this year
Jack Grealish – He hasn’t had the easiest start with Manchester City this season after a hamstring injury and being left on the bench. But Grealish still plays with the joy and fervour of a teenager, always eager to make an impact, and Southgate embraces his chaos.
Phil Foden – Despite being a five-time Premier League winner, Foden’s England career is still yet to sky-rocket. Nobody knows his best position. Yet his versatility plays into his hands and his sheer quality means he will go to Germany.
Callum Wilson – The Newcastle star has been a dependable frontman for a number of years and brings a good balance of pace, power, and skill. He’s probably on the less secure end of the scale in this squad, and Jarrod Bowen’s sparkling form at right wing will make Southgate think hard, but he is a solid No 9.
Marcus Rashford – He will be looking over his shoulder after a shaky time at Manchester United and Southgate has left him out in the past. A career-best 30 goals last season speaks for itself and he scored against Italy.
Mail Sport’s predicted Euro 2024 26-man squad
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Sam Johnstone
Defenders: John Stones, Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Luke Shaw
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson, Kalvin Philipps, James Maddison
Forwards: Harry Kane, Ollie Watkins, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Callum Wilson, Marcus Rashford
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