It's still three years and a long way off until the World Cup in Qatar, but Gareth Southgate's young Three Lions squad looks in fine shape and could be major contenders when the showpiece event rolls around.
Time flies when you're having fun so let's have a check on Futaa's projected England starting XI at the World Cup. While gazing into our crystal ball, there are so, so many options.
🔮 Projected England starting XI at World Cup 2022
Pickford; Gomez, Stones, Maguire; Alexander-Arnold, Foden, Loftus-Cheek, Chilwell; Sancho; Sterling, Kane
💰 A wealth of options on the bench
Jack Butland, Rob Holding, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Ryan Sessegnon, Luke Shaw, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Aaron Wan Bissaka, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, Dele Alli, Tammy Abraham, Harry Winks, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock
🧮 Starting XI assessment and justification
This projected starting XI could line up in a 3-5-2 formation with Everton stopper Jordan Pickford in-between the sticks. His central defensive trio would possess a strong, balanced combination of Liverpool's Joe Gomez, Man City's John Stones and Man United record signing Harry Maguire. They would be 25, 28 and 29 respectively come 2022. Gomez brings pace and athleticism, Stones is superb on the ball and Maguire wins everything in the air.
In the engine room, we've taken a risk on Chelsea's talented box-to-box midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek for his sheer power, technical gifts and ability to drive through midfield. Alongside him, Phil Foden will only turn 22 at World Cup 2022, and he's been described by Pep Guardiola as " the most talented player he's ever worked with" which is quite a statement, considering that Pep has coached the likes of Lionel Messi in the past. Foden is blessed with a wonderful left foot and there’s an effortlessness about his play when he glides across a pitch. A midfield pivot of Foden and Loftus-Cheek can be frighteningly good if the latter can recover fully from his Achilles injuries.
Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold is a no-brainer here. At 20, he's already appeared in two Champions League finals and won one of them. He notched 12 assists from right back in the Premier League last season and already has two from three games this season. His ball-playing ability is perfectly-suited to the wing-back role. On the other flank, Ben Chilwell has impressed greatly for Leicester and will be the senior option ahead of Tottenham's Ryan Sessegnon, turning 25 in World Cup year.
🎯 A vast array of attacking options
We've opted for an attacking trio of Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, who will likely skipper the side. Sancho is still 19, and has recently become the youngest-ever player to reach 15 goals in the Bundesliga. Sterling's rise has been well-publicized, after becoming a key component of Pep Guardiola's treble-winning Manchester City team. He should match his tally of double figures for goals and assists again in the Premier League this season, and some.
Then there's goal-machine Harry Kane, a man who will still be under 30 in Qatar and whose finishing ability speaks for itself. Marcus Rashford will only be 24 at the World Cup and he might have a crucial role to play either from the start or from the bench.
⚖️ Balance in midfield
With Foden and Loftus-Cheek's obvious technical prowess, West Ham's Declan Rice might be a contender for a starting role if Southgate opts for a more conservative approach against top sides. Jordan Henderson will be 32 in Qatar, but you can never rule out his desire to win and do what's best for the team. Foden and Leicester City man James Maddison starred for England at the U21 Euros, and they could rekindle a partnership again at the highest level.
On paper, England should back their chances of reaching the semifinals again, just as they did at Russia 2018. With so many quality young players at their disposal, the biggest challenge might be fitting all of them into a cohesive unit and adding a blend of experience to the equation.
The countdown to World Cup 2022 has already begun.