Kane IN, Rooney OUT - How is England's 2018 World Cup squad shaping up?

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Gareth Southgate has a host of difficult decisions to make once the Three Lions qualify for next summer's tournament, but who will make the grade?

England may only have played four of their 10 qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup, but as with many of these campaigns the Three Lions are well on their way to securing their place in Russia.

Ahead of Sunday's match against Lithuania they sit atop of Group F and looking comfortable to qualify for their sixth straight World Cup.

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But who will be the 23 players who will represent the country once Gareth Southgate likely gets there? The new manager has just over a year to assess his players's capabilities, and he has already shown he is not shy of making controversial decisions.

As such, Goal has run down which players should be ensuring their passports are in date and who can probably start making holiday plans for summer 2018...


ON THE PLANE


Dele Alli England

Despite the World Cup still being over a year away, there are a number of players for whom only injury would end their dream of representing the Three Lions in Russia.

Joe Hart has been able to maintain his spot as the team's undisputed No.1 despite his loan move away from the Premier League, while Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are miles ahead as first-choice full-backs.

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Elsewhere in defence, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and John Stones all look assured of places in the squad, even if they fail to make the starting XI.

Further forward, Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson are likely to be the primary options in central midfield, with Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli ahead of them.

Harry Kane should be the spearhead of Southgate's side, but that leaves 11 spots for the former Middlesbrough boss to fill...


IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE


Jamie Vardy England

Behind Hart in the goalkeeping stakes, Jack Butland, Fraser Forster and Tom Heaton are his likeliest deputies, though one will be forced to remain at home if there are no injuries.

Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand have moved clear as back-up full-backs, while in midfield it would be surprising not to see Jesse Lingard and Ross Barkley in Southgate's squad should they maintain their recent good form.

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Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford, too, will have to have catastrophic years not to be entrusted with places alongside Kane in the group of strikers.


WAITING IN THE WINGS


Michael Keane England

Due to the uncertainties over England squads in recent years, there are a whole host of players who will remain part of Southgate's thinking as next summer's tournament moves ever closer.

Jordan Pickford's form for Sunderland has seen him earn senior call-ups already this season, while Michael Keane impressed on debut against Germany. Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson also holds an outside chance of selection after being called-up for Sunday's qualifier against Lithuania.

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Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Jake Livermore are all also in the current squad and as such can be hopeful of being in the running, while a real outside shot could be current England Under 19s captain Tom Davies following his impressive start to life in the Everton first team.

At the other end of the scale, Jermain Defoe's return to the international fold this month means he cannot be discounted if he continues to bang the goals in with regularity, while Michail Antonio remains an option out wide.


STILL MUCH TO PROVE


Theo Walcott England

While there are a number of players who can be confident of places on the plane next June, the same cannot be said of a few experienced faces who seem to have slipped down the pecking order.

Phil Jones'injury and departure from the current squad means he remains on the outside looking in while Luke Shaw arguably needs more minutes at Manchester United to earn himself a place in the final 23. Leighton Baines remains a big outsider despite previous tournament experience.

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In midfield, both Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may need to secure permanent moves away from Arsenal to get the game time they need to be considered, while Theo Walcott's recent omission suggests he still has more to prove despite a decent season at the Emirates Stadium.

Up front is where there is perhaps the most intrigue, with huge question marks over whether Wayne Rooney can do enough to earn a swansong in Russia given his dwindling returns for both club and country, while Daniel Sturridge and Andy Carroll will likely have to prove their long-term fitness despite their goalscoring pedigree.

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