Who should be in England's World Cup squad? FourFourTwo writers choose their final 26

England's World Cup squad: Harry Kane of England celebrates with team mates Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham after scoring their team's third goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on September 26, 2022 in London, England.
(Image credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate has just had two opportunities to try out some different faces for England's World Cup squad. It's safe to say he didn't utilise those chances quite as much as some would have hoped. 

Fikayo Tomori was left out of a match at his home stadium on Friday – and watched on as Harry Maguire conceded a penalty on Monday. Ivan Toney, called up for the first time, didn't play a minute, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Ramsdale were both spurned in favour of Reece James and Nick Pope respectively. Twice.

Time has essentially run out for England hopefuls to convince Southgate that they deserve a shot – well, unless Harrison Reed begins scoring at a Mitrovic rate and makes himself unignorable. But who do our esteemed team at FourFourTwo think should be taken to Qatar?

England's World Cup squad: Our writers' picks

Matthew Ketchell, Deputy Editor (@ketchell (opens in new tab))

Nick Pope of England looks on during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on September 26, 2022 in London, England.

Nike Pope got a go in the final two Nations League outings – and could have secured a place on the plane to Qatar (Image credit: James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Pope; Alexander-Arnold, Tomori, Stones, Trippier; Rice, Bellingham; Foden, Sterling, Saka; Kane.

The whole squad:

Nick Pope, Aaron Ramsdale, Jordan Pickford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Ben Chilwell, John Stones, Fikayo Tomori, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi, Reece James, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount, Kalvin Phillips, Jack Grealish, James Ward-Prowse, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney

"This starting XI is a pipe dream of course, with Southgate clearly going all-in with the 3-4-3 (or is it 7-2-1?). He's also backing the old guard of Maguire, Shaw, Dier etc. 

"Personally, I'd prefer a new look and in-form defence. Rice-Bellingham are close to clicking and we need a boatload of pace and creativity behind Kane. In goal, I'd stick with Pope (yes, I'm a Newcastle fan): he's been good in the league. In terms of the squad, I'd say bye to Kyle Walker and leave Bowen at home with Coady. 

"I feel like Maddison was close to a recall but unless there's injuries I don't think there's a plane ticket for him."

Mark White, Staff Writer (@markwhlte (opens in new tab))

Phil Foden of England in action during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium on September 26, 2022 in London, England.

Phil Foden played both of the Nations League fixtures but failed to provide a spark (Image credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Ramsdale; Walker, Stones, Tomori, Shaw; Bellingham, Rice; Saka, Foden, Sterling; Kane

The whole squad:

Aaron Ramsdale, Jordan Pickford, Dean Henderson, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, John Stones, Ben White, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell, Jude Bellingham, Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney

"A 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 has won the last four World Cups and it allows players who aren't meticulously coached together to form pairings. In each pairing – the midfield two, the No.9 and No.10, the full-backs, the centre-backs – I've tried to go with balance as much as quality.

"I've picked Phil Foden at No.10, since he has the ability to run beyond Kane, drift laterally to help overload a flank or can even fall back into midfield. He hasn't massively impressed for England but I'd give him 180 minutes against Iran and the USA – otherwise, Mason Mount gets the nod against Wales. Aaron Ramsdale is the best distributor, Bukayo Saka is the best right-winger England have and Kyle Walker gets the nod for his all-round ability as a full-back – he can build-up, overlap and invert.

"OK, so I've picked three backups for Walker but realistically, this is an XI that won't rotate much – and if we need a goal, it doesn't really matter where Trent, James or Trippier slot in, they all over the ability to spam crosses into the area. Harry Maguire still makes my squad, too. I'm praying he has a redemption arc in Qatar because he's really not that bad."

Ed McCambridge, Staff Writer (@edmccambridge (opens in new tab))

Jude Bellingham of England during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 3 match between Italy and England at San Siro on September 23, 2022 in Milan, Italy.

Jude Bellingham was the star performer in the final two Nations League fixtures for England (Image credit: James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)

Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Tomori, Shaw; Bellingham, Rice, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling

The whole squad:

Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Dean Henderson, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Fikayo Tomori, Eric Dier, Luke Shaw, Jude Bellingham, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Mason Mount, Jordan Henderson, James Ward-Prowse, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham, Marcus Rashford, Ivan Toney

"I understand Gareth Southgate's reluctance to field a back four, given our lack of top-class centre-backs but I believe Fikayo Tomori's pace and physicality would facilitate the switch. 

"Jude Bellingham has shown he's got the character to thrive at a World Cup and Mason Mount has to start the other side of Declan Rice. The front three picks itself, with Bukayo Saka our best attacking outlet on the break. Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho and Ivan Toney are excellent options from the bench. 

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