Gareth Southgate has reportedly completed the naming of a 55-man World Cup squad list for the upcoming finals in Qatar, which start in just over three weeks. The long list will have to be reduced to 26 by next week, but those who have made it onto the lengthier squad include a number of surprises.
England’s chances of finally winning their first World Cup since 1966 are relatively high, and if you take a look at the World Cup betting odds, you’ll see that they are consistently placed in fourth or five spots by the leading bookmakers.
Clearly, a list of players as long as this would include a number of talents that have little or no chance of being on the plane to Qatar, but some are quite shocking, to say the least. For instance, Brighton forward Danny Welbeck, who hasn’t played for the national team since September 2018, is apparently included.
The 31-year-old has impressed this season but hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games, though to his credit, the former Man United and Arsenal man has a terrific record when in Three Lions colours. The hard-working striker has scored 16 goals in his 42 games for England, and just being named on the long list will give him a great deal of confidence going forward.
Exciting Crystal Palace attacker Eberechi Eze is on the list, as is Newcastle United forward Callum Wilson, but one imagines neither will make it to the 26. Leicester City’s James Maddison, who has been in superb form, is on the list and could actually push himself into contention for a place at the World Cup.
The creative playmaker has put in great numbers considering that his Foxes side are flirting with relegation. The 25-year-old has scored six times and provided two assists over the course of his eleven Premier League starts.
Brighton centre-back Lewis Dunk is also said to be on the long list but seems unlikely to make the overall cut.
Out of Contention
Both Man City’s Kyle Walker and Chelsea’s Reece James are set to miss out through injury, and that has given hope to the likes of Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and Arsenal’s Ben White. The Gunners star should be a strong candidate as he has excelled during this campaign and can play effectively as a full-back or in the centre of the defence.
Marcus Rashford’s strong run of recent form makes him a shoo-in to make the final 26, which will impact the vacancies in Southgate’s striking candidates for the finals. In this regard, Harry Kane is obviously a key part of his plans, while AS Roma’s Tammy Abraham and in-form Brentford star Ivan Toney may hope to make it into the final squad.
Another potentially surprising decision when it comes to the final 26 may come in the form of Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The 26-year-old has been a regular starter under Graham Potter and what may aid his inclusion is the fact that Loftus-Cheek was part of the 2018 set-up that battled all the way through to the semi-finals.
On the possibility of being picked, Loftus-Cheek responded gleefully;
“It would be amazing. It would mean a lot.”
“Going into the 2018 World Cup, you see your trajectory go upwards and to be at the next World Cup if everything goes well.”
“A lot has happened in that time, and I am just happy and grateful that I am fit and healthy and playing football now consistently.”
Loftus Cheek has started ten of Chelsea’s 12 Premier League games, and that run of action will hold him in good stead. His chances will improve if Kalvin Phillips doesn’t recover from injury in time for the World Cup, which sees England start their campaign against Iran on November 21st.