England’s 2018 World Cup squad: Who made Southgate’s 23-man squad?
England once again made light work of a qualification campaign as they eased their way to World Cup 2018 in Russia, but tougher tests now lie ahead.
The finals draw has been relatively kind to the Three Lions – having been placed in Group G alongside Belgium, Panama and Tunisia – but recent struggles at major competitions suggest nothing can be taken for granted.
Gareth Southgate, then, must piece together a winning formula which makes his side both entertaining and competitive – qualities which have been sadly lacking at times – and now he has finally revealed his 23-man squad .
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Who made England's 23-man squad?
Everton’s Jordan Pickford, Burnley's Nick Pope and Stoke City’s Jack Butland were picked in the 23-man squad in favour of Joe Hart, with Pickford the favourite to start between the sticks in Russia.
Starting berths across the back four appear to have been sewn up if everybody is fit, with Manchester City’s John Stones and Leicester's Harry Maguire the favoured options at centre-half. Chelsea's Gary Cahill could provide competition, especially if he stars in the pre-tournament friendlies.
Danny Rose has been selected as the go-to option at left-back, with former Tottenham team-mate Kyle Walker having impressed following a big-money move to Manchester City to nail down the right-back spot.
Liverpool youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold has been given a deserved first call-up following a sensational season at Anfield, where he has played an instrumental role in helping his side reach the Champions League final.
Manchester United defensive duo Phil Jones and Ashley Young will add some experience to the backline, while Spurs full-back Kieran Trippier is included despite having just five caps to his name before the squad was announced.
Jordan Henderson may not be to everybody’s taste, but Southgate is a big fan of the Liverpool midfielder and he will make the trip as a candidate to take the captain’s armband – or at least fill deputy duties.
22-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another surprise addition to the team after impressing on his loan spell at Crystal Palace from Chelsea. Fabian Delph has played in a variety of positions for Manchester City and is a great utility option for Southgate.
Eric Dier has become an important figure for England in the midfield engine room and will definitely be handed another chance to grace a major finals, while Dele Alli will join his Spurs colleague despite seeing his form dip domestically this season.
Southgate had plenty of options to choose from in the forward areas, with Raheem Sterling’s renaissance at Manchester City guaranteeing him a place as the Three Lions cling to the hope that his standards can be maintained through to the summer.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford will also make the trip as a versatile option who possesses the pace to trouble the very best in the business, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane is arguably the finest striker on the planet and could skipper the team in Russia. Jesse Lingard is now 25-years-old and has developed into a quality winger at Manchester United, often keeping France international Anthony Martial out of the Red Devils' side.
Leicester frontman Jamie Vardy can expect to complete his remarkable journey from non-league football as a back-up to Kane, with his speed and a keen eye for goal making him a useful option to have on the bench. His goalscoring form in 2018 has been fearsome, including two goals on the final Premier League matchday.
Arsenal's Danny Welbeck was a surprise inclusion up front but nevertheless brings experience to the side.
Who didn't make the England squad?
Pope made the 23-man cut ahead of Joe Hart , whose poor form this season at West Ham has lost him his No.1 spot for the Three Lions.
Ryan Bertrand figured enough under Southgate during the injury-enforced absence of Rose to suggest that he will be the second left-back, but was left out of the squad. Manchester United’s Luke Shaw , Ashley Young and West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell have also missed out.
On the right-hand side, Nathaniel Clyne struggled for game time since returning to fitness at Liverpool, with Tottenham’s Kieran Trippier having edged ahead of him during a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Michael Keane has not made the impact expected of him at Everton and has remained behind Chelsea's Gary Cahill.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is another Southgate favourite but injury means he'll play no part at Russia 2018. Reds colleague Adam Lallana has been placed on the five-man standby list.
Jesse Lingard put himself back in the picture due to an impressive couple of months at Manchester United, while Fabian Delph has reclaimed a midfield spot.The Manchester City utility man's tactical versatility looks to have seen him make the cut ahead of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater .
Welbeck has offered enough to the England cause down the years to earn another call-up. A January move from the Gunners to Everton, however, didn't help Theo Walcott to make a World Cup party for the first time since his surprise inclusion in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 2006 squad.
LONG SHOTS WHO MISSED OUT
There was little chance of Burnley's Tom Heaton, earning a call-up having missed most of the season through injury, but there was still an outside chance he would have made it – while Southampton's Fraser Forster has gone from potential squad member to no-hoper due to losing his form and first-team spot at St Mary's.
Swansea City's Alfie Mawson, Burnley's James Tarkowski , Newcastle United leader Jamaal Lascelles , and Middlesbrough centre-half Ben Gibson are among the others who had needed to see the path clear in front of him to make the cut.
Harry Winks' injury made him unable to participate in the Russia finals, while Ross Barkley’s lack of action at Everton and fierce competition for places at Chelsea mean he will have to wait for another opportunity to prove that he can fulfil his undoubted potential.
West Brom’s Jake Livermore and Bournemouth's Lewis Cook have been mentioned as potential options in the centre of midfield, but there were and are better options available when everybody is fit and firing.
Southampton duo Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse will have to wait a little longer for Three Lions glory, while Newcastle’s Jonjo Shelvey remains far down the pecking order despite a clamour in the media for a call-up. Highly rated Fulham teenager Ryan Sessegnon was a surprise exclusion from the squad, though Southgate has picked youngsters Alexander-Arnold and Loftus-Cheek.
Bournemouth’s Jermain Defoe was always likely to suffer World Cup heartache in the twilight of his career. Andy Carroll will be left behind at West Ham and Daniel Sturridge will need to focus on recovering full match sharpness following a difficult season at Liverpool and relegated West Brom.
England's World Cup 2018 squad in full
Goalkeepers: Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Jack Butland
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gary Cahill, Danny Rose, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Phil Jones, Ashley Young
Midfielders: Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard
Forwards: Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck
England will begin their Group G campaign against Tunisia on June 18, before fixtures against Panama on June 24 and Belgium on June 28.
Expectations aren't high for the Three Lions although favourable Group H opponents in the last 16 - Colombia, Poland, Senegal or Japan - could offer a potential quarter-final berth, where Germany or Brazil would likely await.