England’s World Cup squad: Our writers pick their 26 players for Qatar 2022

Some of the England players in contention for the World Cup squad

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Gareth Southgate is set to announce his England squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Thursday.

The World Cup gets under way on 20 November and England will kick-off their tournament the following day when they take on Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

Southgate faces several selection dilemmas across the pitch as well as questions over the fitness of right-backs Kyle Walker and Reece James, and Walker’s Manchester City teammate Kalvin Phillips. Ben Chilwell’s hamstring injury leaves England short of left-sided defenders, while there is growing clamour for James Maddison to be on the plane and a choice to be made over Harry Kane’s deputies up front.

But the increased squad capacity of 26 – up from 23 at the previous World Cup – does at least give Southgate some flexibility as he makes his final decision.

We asked 12 members of the Independent Sport team to cast their votes and come up with a joint 26-man selection. We divided the squad by goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders (deep-lying or box-to-box players), forwards (attacking midfielders & wingers), and strikers (No 9s).

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Goalkeepers

Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Newcastle United).

These three look nailed on to make Southgate’s final squad. All three were given minutes during the recent Nations League campaign and have each started the season well for their respective clubs, with Dean Henderson the only possible challenger. He received two votes from our panel of writers at the expense of Pope, while Pickford and Ramsdale were unanimously selected.

Defenders

Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United).

Luke Shaw will be relied upon at left-back for England

Tripper, Stones, Maguire and Shaw were all unanimous picks among our writers, as was Walker despite the City defender still recovering from groin surgery, which shows just how essential he has been to England’s defence in recent times. That quintet started the Euro 2020 final in Southgate’s wing-back system.

Alexander-Arnold and White were both popular picks too, with Tomori and Dier not far behind, all making our squad ahead of Liverpool’s Joe Gomez. Shaw is the only natural left-sided defender in the selection which suggests our writers trust Trippier to cover on that side if needed, while Saka is a potential attacking option at left wingback.

Reece James’s injury status makes him something of a gamble and he didn’t gather enough votes to make our squad. Other defenders who picked up votes were Everton duo Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, and Brentford’s Rico Henry as a wildcard solution to England’s left-back problems.

How our writers voted on England’s World Cup squad

Sixteen players were unanimously selected by our panel

Pickford (12/12 votes), Ramsdale (12), Trippier (12), Alexander-Arnold (12), Stones (12), Maguire (12), Shaw (12), Rice (12), Bellingham (12), Mount (12), Grealish (12), Saka (12), Foden (12), Sterling (12), Rashford (12), Kane (12)

Alexander-Arnold (11), Jordan Henderson (11)

Nick Pope (10), Ben White (10), James Maddison (10)

Eric Dier (9), Fikayo Tomori (9)

Tammy Abraham (8)

Kalvin Phillips (7)

James Ward-Prowse (5), Ivan Toney (5), Callum Wilson (5)

Joe Gomez (3), Reece James (3), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (3)

Dean Henderson (2), Conor Coady (2), Jarrod Bowen (2)

James Tarkowski (1), Rico Henry (1), Conor Gallagher (1), Harvey Elliott (1), Jadon Sancho (1)

Midfielders

Declan Rice (West Ham United), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).

Jude Bellingham is a crucial part of England’s plans

Rice and Bellingham were unanimous picks among our writers, and are surely set to start the opening match together in Southgate’s usual two central midfield roles either as part of a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-4-3, against Iran on 21 November. Henderson won the majority of our writers’ votes too – he may be a little past his best but the Liverpool captain adds experience and leadership to the squad, and will bring energy off the bench.

Phillips had the backing of most of our writers on the assumption he will be fully fit – if not quite match sharp – for the group stage. James Ward-Prowse held off competition from Ruben Loftus-Cheek to go to Qatar as our fifth central midfielder, offering extra cover in this part of the field should Phillips struggle for fitness. Players like Mason Mount and Ben White are also capable of filling a central midfield role if required.

Forwards

Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).

Bukayo Saka comes into the tournament on the back of good club form

The choice of forwards (broadly defined as attacking midfielders and wingers) was the most clear-cut area of our squad. Saka, Foden, Mount, Grealish, Sterling and Rashford were all unanimously voted on to the plane, while 10 of our 12 writers climbed aboard the James Maddison Hype Train. Jarrod Bowen picked up two votes while Harvey Elliott and Jadon Sancho got one each.

It seems unlikely there will be many surprises in this part of the pitch from Southgate, with the more pertinent question over whether he picks form players like Saka and Maddison in his starting XI or goes with a tried and trusted option like Sterling.

Strikers

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Tammy Abraham (Roma).

Tammy Abraham won our vote to deutise for Harry Kane

Kane picked up all 12 votes of course, and Abraham edged out Callum Wilson and Ivan Toney for a spot in our squad as Kane’s deputy.

Wilson and Toney actually equalled Ward-Prowse on five votes each to finish joint-26th in our selection, but we chose the Southampton captain over either of the two strikers, partly as added cover for the injured Phillips and partly because versatile players like Foden, Rashford and Sterling can also help lead the line.

The Independent’s England squad

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Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal), Nick Pope (Newcastle United); Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Ben White (Arsenal), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United); Declan Rice (West Ham United), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Mason Mount (Chelsea), James Maddison (Leicester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United); Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Tammy Abraham (Roma).

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