The England team that should play at the 2026 World Cup
England’s 2022 World Cup came to a heartbreaking end in the quarter-finals as they were beaten 2-1 by France.
A rare Harry Kane mishap from 12 yards sealed their fate with Les Bleus set to take on Morocco for a place in the World Cup final.
While France are a serious force, many feel that this was a huge missed opportunity given the holders’ vulnerabilities and the teams remaining in the competition. Despite the miracles they’ve worked, many would’ve fancied England to bypass the first-ever African World Cup semi-finalists and progress into football’s biggest game for a chance to win the ultimate prize.
However, this is just the start for this England side, one that has impressed at the last three major tournaments. Their current squad is blessed with an exciting young core and these talents are poised to lead the Three Lions in North America four years down the line. But how different will the rest of the team look?
Here’s 90min’s predicted England starting XI at the 2026 World Cup.
GK: Jordan Pickford – Pickford once again barely put a foot wrong at a major tournament and he’ll continue to operate as England’s number one until his form falls off a cliff. The Three Lions are blessed with a couple of promising young goalkeepers, including Aaron Ramsdale who’ll surely get his chance further down the line, but Pickford will be tough to displace.
RB: Reece James – Kyle Walker should play at Euro 2024 but the 2026 World Cup will probably be a tournament too far for the veteran defender. James was poised to start for England in Qatar after emerging as one of the world’s premier right-backs but he picked up a serious knee injury in November which ruled him out of the competition. Should he continue on his current trajectory, James will be a shoo-in on the right side of England’s defence four years down the line.
CB: John Stones – The Manchester City defender continues to perform at an extremely high level and he’ll be 32 by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around. Stones should be in the starting XI but the likes of Ben White, Fikayo Tomori and Trevoh Chalobah are names to keep an eye out for.
CB: Levi Colwill – Harry Maguire’s lack of pace could compromise him further later on in his career and we’re going to go bold with our predicted partner for Stones in 2026. Chelsea academy starlet Colwill has barely got a taste of the highest level, but he has all the makings of a superstar defender. Colwill performed superbly out on loan for Huddersfield last season before joining Brighton on a temporary basis in 2022. He could be the guy to replace Thiago Silva at Stamford Bridge and eventually function as the cornerstone of England’s defence.
LB: Luke Shaw – The Three Lions currently aren’t blessed with an array of talent down the left side of defence and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shaw competing with Ben Chilwell for a starting berth in 2026. Shaw once again performed superbly for the Three Lions in Qatar and it’ll be interesting to see how his Manchester United career transpires under Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman signed Tyrell Malacia in the summer who has the potential to develop into United’s starting left-back which could hinder Shaw’s England chances.
CM: Declan Rice – The West Ham skipper possesses an infectious personality and he’ll undoubtedly be a staple of the England set-up for years to come. This World Cup, and his performance against France, in particular, dispelled any doubts over Rice’s competence at the very highest level. He’s a superstar midfielder.
CM: Kalvin Phillips – Gareth Southgate is a huge admirer of Phillips, who played such an important role in England’s Euro 2020 campaign. A lack of minutes due to injury meant he missed out on the Qatari World Cup, but he should be back in England’s plans in 2023. Should his Manchester City career ignite (it may take a couple of years to do so) it’ll be hard to ignore the Yorkshire Pirlo in four years’ time.
CM: Jude Bellingham – Europe’s elite will be harrassing Borussia Dortmund in the wake of the World Cup following Bellingham’s stellar campaign in Qatar. He’s been the standout midfielder of the tournament not called Sofyan Amrabat and he’s poised to move on for huge money in 2023. The teenager possesses everything you want in a midfielder and showed on many occasions in Qatar that he’s a potential future England captain. It’s scary to think how good he’ll be in 2026.
RW: Bukayo Saka – Wilton Sampaio’s nemesis was brilliant in Qatar and has developed at an exponential rate in north London with Arsenal, who may well emerge as a dominant force under Mikel Arteta. The sky is the limit for Saka, whose trajectory would suggest he might be one of the world’s very best wingers by 2026 – if he isn’t already.
ST: Harry Kane – The England skipper has previously spoken of his desire to replicate Tom Brady’s longevity and he should still have a few good years left in him by the time the next World Cup rolls around. We’ve seen Kane evolve from a superstar number nine into a majestic multi-faceted forward and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the 29-year-old drop deeper and deeper as he reaches the twilight of his career.
LW: Phil Foden – Much of the discourse regarding England in Qatar surrounded the brilliant Foden, arguably the Three Lions’ most gifted footballer. Southgate eventually made room for the Manchester City playmaker down the left flank where he starred against Wales and Senegal. Foden is obscenely talented but his ‘best’ position isn’t yet known. So while he’ll undoubtedly be a part of England’s 2026 World Cup squad, the role he performs will be dependent on who’s in charge and his evolution at the Etihad.
Jonas Eidevall hails dominant Stina Blackstenius performance in north London derby victory
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall has heaped praise on forward Stina Blackstenius after her sensational showing in Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Tottenham.
The Swede opened the scoring after just a few minutes and continued to lead the line with real dominance all game, creating plenty of chances for those around her in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
Blackstenius’ performance did not go unnoticed by Eidevall, who took the time to praise the forward after the game.
“Every game poses different challenges, but Stina gave exactly what we needed at the start of the game by posing a threat from balls in-behind against a very compact Spurs’ team,” Eidevall told Sky Sports.
“I think it was very nice to see her take the first finish on her first touch when she first spots the goalkeeper a little bit out of position.”
On the wider performance, Eidevall continued: “I was very pleased with the performance. There are still some aspects of our game we need to get better at compared to the first half. I think our players were brilliant and were very well positioned in the second half. I think we could have controlled the game right from the start.
“I think it starts with the way we attack. We were well positioned. I think we constantly overloaded them out in the wide areas and set up players that can play forward with the ball. We are good at arriving into the box with pace. In the first half and the last ten minutes, we got a little bit complacent and a bit of standing still which suits Spurs’ really well. We didn’t get into that trap in the second-half and that was pleasing.”
The win keeps Arsenal in the WSL title race, moving the Gunners up to 35 points, two behind leaders Chelsea having played a game more.
Emma Hayes’ Blues are in action on Sunday against fellow title hopefuls Manchester City, who can blow the title race wide open with a win.
USMNT hail Christian Pulisic for contributions in 7-1 triumph over Grenada
Christian Pulisic earned praise from the United States men’s national team for his involvement in the 7-1 triumph over Grenada on Friday in the CONCACAF Nations League.
The Chelsea figure played an integral role in the team’s offensive efforts from the get-go, inspiring Ricardo Pepi to the first goal in the fourth minute of the match. Minutes later, he propelled Brenden Aaronson to the team’s second with a stunning assist from the left side.
Overall, he contributed to five of the goals, before scoring one of his own in the second half to secure the three points and break the USMNT’s nine-game winless streak.
“It’s my job to help create and score goals and assists for the team,” said Pulisic.
“It was an important game for sure. I don’t rank it as one of our best performances ever. I think we put in a solid performance, got the job done. It was a really nice scene, though, tonight in Grenada for sure, I thought. Field [was] not bad, though the stadium was beautiful, nice. Cool little atmosphere. So I think we definitely enjoyed ourselves here.”
In the shared post-match press conference, teammate Weston McKennie quickly jumped to commend Pulisic for his individual performance against Grenada, adding: “It helps the team out in the best way.
“I mean, to be completely honest, it’s what I expect of him. For him to be able to do it consistently and be back and be in that zone, it always helps the team out in the best way, because he’s one of the players on our team that can create things and can make things happen. So just to see him having fun, and just playing his game and with the confidence that he has, It’s amazing.”
Pulisic’s contributions inspired the USMNT to break the team record for most goals scored in an away match. But it was his efforts on and off the field that impressed interim manager Anthony Hudson.
“I’m amazed by Christian. Through this last cycle and leading up to this camp, and then coming into camp, I just can’t speak highly enough of the character of this person,” said Hudson after the win.
“Who not only is a talented player, but it’s someone, I can assure you, he just absolutely loves playing for his country. Great character, loves playing for his country, is inspiring to the rest of the group. And I think you saw that in his performance. I can’t remember the amount of times he puts his body on the line. For such a big player, playing at a big club, has a huge value on him. And we go to places like this and he has no problem just giving absolutely everything he has. So he is an inspiration to the rest of the group for sure.”
Pulisic will remain with the United States men’s national team as they prepare to take on El Salvador on Monday for the final Nations League match of the March international window. The team only needs a draw to finish the group stage atop Group D and advance to the final four in June.
Why do Liverpool fans boo the England national anthem?
Few managers of the modern era have developed a bond with their club’s fanbase as strong as the link between Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
A rapidly stacked trophy cabinet has obviously helped Klopp win over Merseyside but the humble and honest German coach has forged such a deep connection with the people of Liverpool by taking time to understand the history and beliefs of the city.
However, even Klopp was left a little perplexed by the deafening swell of boos which his supporters delivered in response to the English national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.
“I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it,” Klopp reasoned, before admitting: “And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it.”
Don’t worry, Jurgen, we’ve got you covered.
As a port city which has welcomed countless immigrants over the years, many Liverpudlians have an ancestral reason to not consider themselves English. The xenophobia and racism which remains a plague on these shores are not exactly a set of welcoming, open arms.
The term ‘Scouse’, which is a traditional stew, was originally used as a derogatory term for Irish immigrants that could only afford to frequent soup kitchens. But the city’s inhabitants have harnessed the slur and the sense of otherness it was meant to hold.
Engraved in in the wall of the Museum of Liverpool is a quote from the former Gronby councillor Margaret Simey in 1999 which reads: “The magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.”
Liverpool’s port points west, which was particularly unhelpful during the 1980s when trade with Europe on the other side of the Isles was being prioritised. Naturally, this only stoked the flames of a dire relationship between Liverpool and the British government.
“Never Trust A Tory” is another common banner which can been seen circulating the Liverpool end on trips to Wembley.
This distrust has only festered over the last decade of Conservative rule. Labour – the more left-wing opposition in England to the Conservatives – have not had a prime minister in power since Gordon Brown in 2010.
Unlike the rest of the country, Liverpool have not given in to the blue invasion. The Labour Party has received more than 50% of the city’s votes in every general election between 1992 and 2019.
This unwavering favouring of Labour came immediately after Margaret Thatcher’s unpopular reign as Conservative party leader and prime minister. Thatcher’s Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe argued that Liverpool should be left to “managed decline”, as revealed by cabinet papers from the era which fed the distrust of that regime on Merseyside. In the wake of the Toxteth Riots, Howe urged Thatcher “not to over-commit scarce resources to Liverpool”.
The Conservatives and Thatcher were also in power at the time of the Hillsborough disaster and their handling of the situation, over a course of a decades-long quest for justice, also enraged a wounded city and its people.
The Tory hatred wasn’t always so suffocating. When the Iron Lady became prime minister in 1979, Sir Malcolm Thornton was first elected as Conservative MP for Liverpool Garston.
However, the distrust very much extends to the modern era as Boris Johnson, when prime minister, was asked to apologise for publishing an article in the Spectator which accused Liverpudlians of “wallowing” in their “victim status” while he was the publication’s editor in 2004. Shockingly, he did not offer a sorry amid his blustering response.
At Liverpool’s first FA Cup final triumph in 1965, the travelling Merseyside support belted out “God Save Our Gracious Team”. For many reasons, Liverpool fans have opted for a blunter approach over the subsequent years.
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