Just as night follows day, England getting knocked out of a major tournament leads to speculation about which young players are going to lead the Three Lions to glory four years later.
After England finished bottom of their group at the 2014 World Cup, BBC Sport asked four football writers to predict the starting XI for the 2018 tournament in Russia.
The Times’ Oliver Kay, The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor, The Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter (now of the The Times), the Daily Mirror’s Martin Lipton (now of The Sun) and the BBC’s very own Phil McNulty looked into their crystal balls – and the results were, well…interesting.
We do have sympathy for the quintet – who all opted for a 4-3-3 formation – but the choice of Jack Rodwell really hasn’t aged well.
Joe Hart has largely been England’s first-choice goalkeeper post-2010 World Cup until recently, but his Three Lions future is now unclear after being dropped while on loan at West Ham from Manchester City.
Winter, Kay and McNulty all stuck with Hart following the 2014 World Cup, while Lipton opted for Jack Butland, who may have already established himself as the No.1 were it not for a couple of untimely injuries.
Taylor, meanwhile, went for Karl Darlow. We suspect that might have something to do with Taylor being a Nottingham Forest fan.
Yesterday we asked you who should start England's first game in goal at the World Cup 2018.
Jordan Pickford is the winner getting 33% of the vote. The 2010 World Cup aside, (and we all know how that went) England usually have their No 1 decided by now. #ThreeLions #England pic.twitter.com/0MV5P1zoEi
— Total Guesswork (@totalguesswork) February 9, 2018
In the back four there were two unanimous choices: John Stones as one of the two centre-backs and Luke Shaw at left-back.
Stones seems like a sure bet, especially if he rediscovers his form from the start of the season after a spell out injured. Shaw career since the last World Cup has been blighted by injury and it would seem he is behind Danny Rose and Ryan Bertrand in the pecking order, and quite possibly his Manchester United team-mate Ashley Young.
Glen Johnson had been England’s first-choice right-back in 2014, with Phil Jones used as an auxiliary back-up option during the tournament, though neither were expected to take up the position four years later.
Instead, Jon Flanagan was voted for by Winter and Taylor, while Calum Chambers had the backing of Lipton, Kay and McNulty. It would be nothing short of a miracle for either player to make the plane to Russia, with Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier established in the squad, and Nathaniel Clyne waiting in the wings having suffered a cruel injury blow on the eve of the current season.
As the second centre-back Jones did at least make it into Kay’s side – though it remains to be seen whether he will make the final cut this summer. Manchester United team-mate Chris Smalling, who was dropped from Southgate’s previous squad after being deemed not good enough on the ball, was chosen by McNulty and Taylor.
Despite mainly been chosen at right-back, Chambers was selected in the centre by Winter, while Gary Cahill only got the nod from Lipton.
— The Ginger Pirlo™️ (@ToonBano) February 12, 2018
Wilshere is one unanimous pick among the journalists, and his recent run in the Arsenal first-team appears to have given the 26-year-old a great chance of establishing himself in Gareth Southgate’s side.
Ross Barkley is also another player to make it in all five teams, although Winter and Lipton choose the former Everton man in their forward lines. It seems only an excellent finish to the season would put Barkley into contention, given he has played just 54 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Jordan Henderson is chosen by four writers, with only Winter leaving the Liverpool captain out of his side. Henderson may not be the most popular player among fans but he has been a regular for England in recent years and, injury permitting, is likely to travel to Russia.
Winter does pick Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield, while the Liverpool player is chosen as a forward by Taylor. Southgate left Oxlade-Chamberlain out of his squad in November due to a lack of first-team football but the 24-year-old has now established himself at Anfield and would be expected to return to the Three Lions set-up.
Two choices which have not aged well are Winter’s selection of Jack Rodwell and Lipton taking a punt on Josh Onomah. Yeah, not happening, are they?
Should @JackWilshere start for England at the World Cup? 🤔🤔🤔
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) January 25, 2018
Two players earn selection in all five sides: Raheem Sterling, who was won of England’s brightest players four years ago, and Daniel Sturridge. Sterling is enjoying the best season of his career and is probably a shoe-in for Southgate’s XI. Sturridge, however, has struggled for first-team football at Liverpool and has now picked up another injury on loan at West Brom.
As previously mentioned, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Barkley receive picks as forwards, while Patrick Roberts also earns two nominations. Roberts had made just two appearances for Fulham at that point and, while he has impressed on loan at Celtic from Manchester City, he is currently recovering from a hamstring injury which has kept him out since November.
Harry Kane was yet to sufficiently impress while it is notable that there was no faith in Theo Walcott to win back an England place.
Hopefully the team that Southgate does opt for in Russia will give England a better chance of winning the 2018 World Cup.
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