Chukwuemeka Delap Elliott GFXGetty/Goal

Delap, Chukwuemeka, Elliott & the NXGN talents who could make England even better

As the dust settles on England's penalty shootout loss to Italy in the final of Euro 2020, attention will soon turn towards the 2022 World Cup, with the final of that competition just over 17 months away.

Gareth Southgate and his team, of course, still need to secure qualification for the tournament, though given the start they have made to their group that should be something of a formality.

Usually at ths time, then, fans and journalists like to start predicting what England's line-up will be the next time a tournament comes around.

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But the beauty of this England team is that is still only at the start of its cycle, and as such their team in Qatar - and likely in Germany for the 2024 European Championship too - will feature many of the same personnel from Euro 2020.

This was a first tournament experience for the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham - all of whom have previously been named on Goal's NXGN list of football's top teenage talents - with Mount the eldest at just 22.

In fact, only three of the 26-man Euros squad are currently over 30, while just seven more will have reached that milestone by the time the Euro 2024 final is played.

Not only, then, are England are good now, but this is a squad with a potential longevity that will see them get even better.

Of course, injuries and fluctuations in form mean not all of those who appeared for the Three Lions over the past four weeks will be regulars throughout their careers, and there will undoubtedly be one or two for whom this will be as good as it gets for them in an England shirt, in terms of playing time anyway.

Fortunately for Southgate, this is a country that is just getting started when it comes to churning out talented youngsters, and by the time the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada comes around, England should have even more selection headaches than they have now.

England penalty shootout Euro 2020Getty Images

But who are the next generation of England stars who could make this team even greater? Let Goal run you through the NXGN-aged (born 2002 or later) starlets who could be in the running for call-ups in the next few years...

Generation 2002

When the 2021 NXGN list was released in March, there was just one 2002-born English player who made it into the men's top 50.

Fortunately for the Three Lions, Noni Madueke has enough talent to make up for this age-group maybe not having the glut of game-changers that came before it or will come after it.

The PSV forward, who left Tottenham and rejected Manchester United to move to the Netherlands at the age of 16, returned nine goals and eight assists in his first season of senior football in 2020-21, earning himself a call-up to the England Under-21s squad for their European Championship in March in the process.

Madueke's form has also seen him emerge as a target for Borussia Dortmund, with the 19-year-old now being widely reported as the Bundesliga outfit's preferred option to replace his Manchester United-bound compatriot Sancho at Signal-Iduna Park.

EMBED ONLY Noni Madueke NXGN award GFX

And though Madueke was the sole representative on this year's NXGN list, there are a number of other 2002-born players capable of making the leap into the England set-up over the next five years.

Attack-minded Chelsea right-back Tino Livramento has already been called-up to an England U20s training camp despite his 19th birthday not being until November, while fellow full-back Kaine Kesler was impressive in captaining Aston Villa to winning this year's FA Youth Cup.

Elsewhere, Manchester City playmaker Cole Palmer has already played in the Champions League, and is set for a permanent promotion to City's senior ranks after his 13 goals and six assists in just 16 U23s matches caught Pep Guardiola's eye and helped guide his team to the Premier League 2 title last season.

Arsenal central midfielder Miguel Azeez has also played in continental competition, having debuted in the Europa League last term, while central defenders Teden Mengi (Man Utd), Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Man City) and Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton) all got a taste of first-team football on loan in the Championship in 2020-21.

Leeds United forward duo Sam Greenwood  and Joe Gelhardt - the latter of whom has been likened to Wayne Rooney - have both also enjoyed senior run-outs, and combined to score 23 goals for the club's U23s last season, while their team-mate Charlie Cresswell is regarded as one of the best young centre-backs in the country.

Other attack-minded players who have the potential to make the grade include Man City's midfield schemer James McAtee, Chelsea's midfield metronome Lewis Bate, injury-hit but prolific Liverpool striker Layton Stewart, and Aston Villa winger Jaden Philogene-Bidace, who has been linked with the likes of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Man City and Borussia Dortmund in the past.

Generation 2003

A few years ago, there was huge excitement around a generation of 2000-born players who many felt would form the backbone of the England team for years to come.

That excitement only grew after that team won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, with Foden, Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi having already made their senior debuts, while the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Morgan Gibbs-White, Rhian Brewster and Conor Gallagher have begun to establish themselves in the Premier League.

There is the potential, though, for the group of 2003-born players to even surpass the achievements of that group, certainly in terms of earning full England honours.

The standard-bearer for that group, Jude Bellingham, is already established among the senior ranks, and has the potential to become the most accomplished central midfielder the country has produced in at least 20 years.

And though Jamal Musiala has switched allegiances to represent Germany, there are others who have a great chance of joining Bellingham at the very top.

The player with the most senior experience among them is Harvey Elliott, who shone on loan at Blackburn Rovers from Liverpool last season, scoring seven goals and providing 11 assists in the Championship.

EMBED ONLY Harvey Elliott NXGN award GFXGoal

The youngest player in Premier League history from his time at Fulham, winger Elliott last week signed a new five-year deal at Anfield, and is expected to make his mark on the top-flight in 2021-22, whether that is at Anfield or on loan at a club further down the table.

Another who could be set for a loan spell this coming season is Man City striker Liam Delap, who set the record for the most goals in a single Premier League 2 season last term, netting 24 times in 20 games while also providing five assists to be named the competition's Player of the Year.

Delap, too, scored on his senior debut for City, which is also something Aston Villa forward Louie Barry did in the FA Cup third round in January, with the ex-Barcelona trainee having been described by Jurgen Klopp as comparable to Jamie Vardy aftering netting against the Reds.

Barry might not, however, be the top prospect emerging at Villa Park, with central midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka having been linked with a host of Europe's elite clubs, including Manchester United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.

Chukwuemeka scored seven goals and laid on two assists in Villa's six Youth Cup games on their way to lifting the trophy in May, and has already made his senior bow for Dean Smith's team.

North of the border, forward Karamoko Dembele has also begun to make his mark on the first team at Celtic, having been talked about for years after making his debut for the Bhoys' U20s as a 13-year-old, and though he has not played as much as some fans would like, his handful of performances have suggested that he remains a special talent.

He is not the only player from this generation playing outside of England, either, with wideman Samuel Iling Jr. having enjoyed an encouraging first season at Juventus, scoring four goals and laying on seven assists for their Primavera (U19) side after joining from Chelsea in the summer of 2020.

A player still on the books at Chelsea is central defender Levi Colwill, though he will spend the upcoming campaign on loan at Huddersfield Town, as a player who some believe can fill the void left by John Terry at Stamford Bridge gains some senior experience.

Other centre-backs who could be battling with Colwill for places in the England team in future years include Man City's Luke Mbete, who has already been in Guardiola's matchday squad on occasion, Leeds' Nohan Kenneh, who also has experience of playing defensive midfield and has trained with England's U20s, and West Ham starlet Jamal Baptiste.

Further forward, Daniel Jebbison already has a Premier League goal to his name after netting the winner for Sheffield United against Everton last season, and should earn himself plenty of playing time with the Blades in the Championship in 2021-22.

Fellow striker Joe Hugill has already been namechecked by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as one to watch at Manchester United after an impressive first season with the Red Devils having joined from Sunderland, while there are also a host of attacking midfielders to keep an eye out for in the next couple of years, including James Balagizi (Liverpool), Charlie Patino (Arsenal) and Aaron Ramsey (Aston Villa).

Generation 2004

Much like Mason Greenwood was long seen as the standout English player among those born in 2001 when growing up, his Manchester United team-mate Shola Shoretire is now carrying that expectation for the 2004 generation.

Shoretire, who can play any position across the forward line, has already become the youngest player to represent United in European competition, and despite Sancho's arrival at Old Trafford is expected to push for further first-team minutes this season.

The 17-year-old, though, is not the only player of his age to have tasted first-team action over the past 12 months.

Attacking midfielder Kaide Gordon broke into the Derby County team last winter before Liverpool paid a reported £1 million to bring him to Merseyside, where he has made a strong start to life in their youth ranks and will train with the senior squad during pre-season.

Across Stanley Park, Thierry Small last season became the youngest player in Everton history, with the marauding left-back having been compared to Alphonso Davies amid reported interest in his services from Manchester United and Arsenal.

Small's debut came in the FA Cup, and it was in that competition that midfielder Alfie Devine also made history, as his goal against Marine in January saw the former Wigan Athletic trainee become the youngest goalscorer in Tottenham history.

He is not the only record-breaker in the Spurs youth ranks either, with Dane Scarlett having become the first 16-year-old to represent the north London outfit in the Premier League, with many believing the striker can be the long-term successor to Harry Kane at Tottenham.


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Another to have made his Premier League bow is Sheffield United striker Antwoine Hackford, who actually became the first of those born in 2004 to play in the English top flight.

Further afield, winger Jamie Bynoe-Gittens has unsurprisingly been christened 'the new Sancho' after leaving Manchester City for Dortmund in the summer of 2020, while goalkeeper Charlie Setford is learning his trade in the world-famous Ajax academy.

Generation 2005+

It would be unfair to place too much pressure on players who have not yet or only just turned 16, but there are some names to keep an eye out for who could be in contention around the time the 2026 World Cup comes around.

Central defender Josh Feeney has joined Aston Villa from Fleetwood Town this summer, with the England U16s captain having also been pursued by Manchester United over the last six months.

Across the second city, the name of Jobe Bellingham immediately stands out at Birmingham City, with the Dortmund midfielder's younger brother - who plays predominantly as a winger - having also represented his country at schoolboy level.

Another forward to keep track of is Stoke City's Emre Tezgel, who scored seven goals and laid on five assists for the club's U18s last season, despite his 16th birthday not being until September.

Tezgel also netted a hat-trick for England U16s against Northern Ireland at the start of June, and is expected to continue flying through the age-group teams over the next few years.

One last name to monitor is that of midfielder Finley McAllister, who will not turn 15 until July 16, but last season became the youngest ever player to debut for Manchester United's U18s team.

How will England line-up in 2026?

So, how will all these young stars fit into the England team in five years?

In short, the majority of them won't.

The Three Lions have a huge amount of talent coming through, but not all of them will reach the very top of the game, while competing with those who are already in and around the squad will be hugely difficult.

So to start with, who from the current group will still be around?

Foden, Mount, Sancho, Reece James, Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Declan Rice should all be well into their primes between the ages of 26-28, while Ben Chilwell and Dean Henderson will also still be under 30.

Saka and Greenwood will be even younger still at 24, and there is an expectation that the likes of Ben White and Fikayo Tomori (both currently 23) will have matured into potential starting centre-backs.

By this time, meanwhile, it is expected that the team will be built around Bellingham, who at the age of 22/23 should, if he continues his development at the current rate, have the world at his feet.

That leaves very few positions for the next generation to fill, but that does not mean they are not good enough to challenge for them.

England 2026 GFXGoal

Above, then, is what we predict England could look like as they kick-off the 2026 World Cup. Only time will tell us how right - or wrong - we were.