England’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia is almost upon us, and the selection dilemmas facing Gareth Southgate are looming larger.
The head coach may be having sleepless nights as he tries to fill the huge (literally) Harry Maguire-shaped hole in England’s defence, and weigh up if he can shoe-horn Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling into his starting XI.
But fear not, Gareth. You just focus on choosing which waistcoat to wear – the NationalWorld football writers have got this covered.
Here’s our starting XI for the game. Let us know if you agree. Because, let’s face it – we don’t.
(4-2-3-1): Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Coady, Shaw; Rice, Henderson; Foden, Mount Rashford; Kane
Let’s start with the obvious one here – Jordan Henderson. He’s only had 45 minutes of football since February, but let’s not forget what a class act he is, and how England looked much better in that 45 minutes against Romania. If he’s blowing after 60 minutes then Jude Bellingham is your man from the bench.
At the back, you could choose any full-back and they’ll be great. Kieran Trippier has had a great season and his set-piece delivery could be needed. With Harry Maguire’s injury, I wouldn’t touch Tyrone Mings on current form so Conor Coady gets the nod.
And no Jack Grealish, I hear you laugh/whine. That was a tough call but I feel England will need pace and someone to go beyond Harry Kane when he drops deep – Marcus Rashford is in slightly better form that Raheem Sterling, though that isn’t saying much.
(3-4-3): Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones; James, Rice, Mount, Shaw; Foden, Kane, Rashford
Regardless of whether Maguire is fit to play, I'm very much in favour of the back three.
Let's face it, England need all the help they can get when it comes to defence, and that extra body will do everyone's nerves the world of good.I'd take a gamble and start Maguire, because with five substitutes available, it's not the end of the world if he has to get hooked prematurely.Elsewhere, Mount and Rice could be a dynamic duo in the middle of the park, with Rashford bringing raw pace, and Foden offering the 'X Factor'. Also, Kane because...well, he's Kane!
(4-3-3): Pickford; James, Stones, White, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Foden, Kane, Grealish
The biggest question mark England face going into their opener against Croatia is whether or not Harry Maguire will be fit enough to partner John Stones at the heart of defence.
If not, Gareth Southgate will be left to choose between Tyrone Mings, Conor Coady, or Ben White. The first two have hardly been stellar in recent weeks, and for that reason, the Brighton man could be the best option – even in spite of his paltry international experience.
It's a similar situation in midfield. If Jordan Henderson is ready he starts, but if he’s not then Southgate should put his faith in teenage sensation Jude Bellingham. Everybody laughed when Birmingham City retired his shirt number after he moved to Borussia Dortmund, but with every passing display, that grandiose gesture looks more and more justified.
Some will argue that he’s too young, but if England are to get anywhere in this competition, they need to be bold.
With that in mind, play four at the back and start Phil Foden and Jack Grealish…please, Gareth.
What would be your England team to take on Croatia? Leave your view in the comments below.