Revisiting talkSPORT’s ‘England’s 2022 World Cup XI’ from 2017

Quick Reads
England's Ben Chilwell and Nathaniel Chalobah during UEFA Nations League match v Spain at Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla, Spain. October 15, 2018.

The World Cup is just around the corner and the preparations and hype are ramping up. But this tournament has been talked about for years already.

Back in 2017, talkSPORT predicted what the England starting line-up would look like at Qatar 2022.

How well did they fare in their fool’s errand?

We’ve taken a look back at their predictions – arranged in a slightly odd 4-4-2 diamond shape – to see how likely they are to start at the finals.

GK: Jack Butland

Joe Hart was still England goalkeeper back in 2017, but talkSPORT correctly predicted that he wouldn’t last much longer.

Their choice of successor looked astute too – Butland was a solid Premier League performer at Stoke City and had already appeared six times for England.

But the Bristolian suffered with numerous injuries and Stoke’s relegation in 2018 saw his stock gradually fall. After two seasons in the Championship, Butland moved to Crystal Palace and has played just 10 league games in the two seasons since.

With Palace having also signed Sam Johnstone, Butland may well be third-choice at club level now.

Interestingly, though, talkSPORT did namecheck England’s current shot-stopper. They wrote that Butland would “have competition from Hart, Freddie Woodman (England’s U20s highly-rated goalkeeper) and Jordan Pickford.”

He might not have had the best season with Everton in 2021-22, but after winning the Golden Glove and conceding just twice at Euro 2020, it’s difficult to see anyone else but Pickford as Gareth Southgate’s first choice in Qatar.

RB: Kyle Walker

Walker was expected to retain his spot at right-back, although facing competition from Mason Holgate, Kyle Walker-Peters and Kieran Trippier.

talkSPORT wrote: “Walker will have adapted his game slightly after losing a yard of pace, but will still get forward well, using his knowledge and reading of the game to get in excellent positions.”

While working under Pep Guardiola has undoubtedly reshaped Walker’s game, he retains that lightning pace and often acts as a one-man barrier to counter-attacks.

While Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James are both breathing down his neck, the right-back spot is still Walker’s to lose. And if Southgate opts for a back five, he’ll almost certainly get in as the right-sided centre-back.

CB: John Stones

Stones was another stand-out performer at Euro 2020 after recovering from a poor 2019-20 campaign to star for Manchester City in 2020-21.

Last season, though, he was often on the bench again as Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias were the preferred centre-back partnership.

So will Southgate drop Stones if he starts 2022-23 on the bench? Err, no, probably not.

Southgate tends to retain trust in his players and Stones has performed well for England at a World Cup in 2018 as well as the Euros last summer. Fikayo Tomori could run him close, but Stones is favourite to start.

CB: Michael Keane

For a long time it looked like Keane would be starting alongside Harry Maguire at Euros. He only lost his place in the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers in March 2021.

Speaking about his omission, he said: “I was surprised to be left out. I’d been in squads before and was playing well. I only found out when it got announced on Sky.

“Obviously I’m going to keep what was said between ourselves but I know the door is still open. I’ve just got to keep playing well and see what happens.”

That seems a long time ago now, though. We’d certainly be surprised if Keane can do enough to force his way back in before the World Cup.

More importantly, we can’t get over 2017 talkSPORT listing Phil Jones as a viable starting centre-back for 2022. It makes you realise England have come a long way in a short space of time. To be fair, Harry Maguire had only just left Hull City for Leicester back in 2017.

LB: Ben Chilwell

talkSPORT foresaw the rivalry between Chilwell and Luke Shaw, stating: “Chilwell will know he cannot slip up though, with a 27-year-old Luke Shaw providing tough competition.”

It was a good shout considering Chilwell was only just breaking into Leicester’s first team back then.

Shaw was first choice for the Euros, with Chilwell not playing a minute. But both players will need to regain some form and confidence before the World Cup having struggled in 2021-22.

In July, the Chelsea left-back told the BBC: “I’ve dreamed of playing in a World Cup since I can remember.

“To know it’s just around the corner is more motivation for me to try and seal that spot down, not just for me but my family, especially after the Euros which was a pretty difficult time for me.

“If I can go to World Cup as number one left-back and have a good tournament and hopefully as a team we can do well, it would be a highlight of not just my career but my life.”

CM: Lewis Cook

In 2017, Cook had just captained England’s Under-20 side to World Cup glory and was tipped to cement himself in Bournemouth’s midfield under the watchful eye of future national team manager Eddie Howe.

And Cook made his England debut during the friendly with Italy in 2018 before being named on the standby list for the Russia World Cup.

He hasn’t been called up since. Serious injuries have stalled his development and players such as Declan Rice and former Leeds team-mate Kalvin Phillips have emerged to become England heroes.

Cook is still on Bournemouth’s books and still has plenty of time to realise his potential if he can put his horrible history of injuries behind him, but he’s unlikely to be on the plane to Qatar.

CM: Eric Dier

“Years after being part of Mauricio Pochettino’s Premier League-winning Tottenham side, Eric Dier will be a key part of England in 2022,” talkSPORT predicted.

Ah.

While the Spurs bit clearly hasn’t come true, Dier could still just about sneak into the squad.

He hasn’t been capped since November 2020 and for a while, he became a figure of ridicule. But Dier has rediscovered his form under Antonio Conte and if he starts 2022-23 as strongly as he finished 2021-22, he’ll be in with a chance.

Whatever Dier’s England future, though, he’ll always have that tackle on Sergio Ramos.

CM: Nathaniel Chalobah

Chalobah made 11 starts in the Championship for Fulham last season, so, err, yeah.

AM: Dele Alli

talkSPORT predicted that Alli would be “one of the world’s best No.10s” by 2022 and the creative fulcrum of the England side in Qatar.

The reality is much sadder. The Everton man has slipped out of contention as injuries and a startling deterioration in from have left the midfielder out in the cold. He last played for his country in 2019.

With talents such as Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount filling the mantle of creative responsibility, Alli’s inclusion look incredibly unlikely.

ST: Marcus Rashford

Rashford is listed as a striker here, with talkSPORT warning of competition from Dominic Calvert-Lewin (fair enough) and Dominic Solanke (oh).

He’s not the sure starter described here, but the Manchester United man has blossomed into a fine attacking player and national icon for his work in providing children with free school meals.

He really needs to regain some form if he’s to get back into the England squad for Qatar, but with United under new management, we reckon he’ll get there.

England U21 manager Gareth Southgate holds up four fingers while shouting instructions at his players.

READ: Where are they now? England’s U21 team from Southgate’s last game

ST: Harry Kane

Will probably scrape in.


More from Planet Football

7 times Marcus Rashford was a better person than all of us put together

Ranking England’s most heartbreaking defeats since 1990: Italy, Germany…

Can you name every country to compete at a FIFA World Cup?

Where are they now? England’s U21 team from Southgate’s last game