Everything we’ve learned about England ahead of 2022 World Cup in Qatar - will Harry Maguire make the plane?

Everything we learned about England from their UEFA Nations League clash against Germany, including Harry Maguire concerns and the importance of Bukayo Saka.

England came back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with Germany in what turned out to be a thrilling game under the lights at Wembley on Monday night.

The fixture marked England’s final match before the start of the World Cup in November after what has been a rocky Nations League campaign, which sees the Three Lions finish sitting bottom of their group.

After reaching the semi-finals four years ago and missing out on winning the Euros by a penalty shootout, there could — and perhaps should — have been plenty of optimism surrounding the impending trip to Qatar.

Instead the feeling is very mixed. In particular, baffling selection decisions from the manager have continued to raise questions over whether he can be the one to end the nation’s trophy curse.

On that note, here are five things we have learned about England ahead of the World Cup:

Gareth Southgate’s selections are a concern

There were a number of players called up to the most recent squad that deserved their chance but didn’t get any minutes. Namely, Fikayo Tomori was forced to watch on as Harry Maguire was preferred, while England first-timer Ivan Toney was not afforded the opportunity to earn his maiden cap.

Before the home side’s first goal against Germany they hadn’t scored from open play in more than 9 hours of football, yet one of the most creative players available to the manager in Trent Alexander-Arnold seems to be heavily out of favour and not considered an option even from the bench.

Understandably, there is a feeling amongst many supporters that a number of the tools at Southgate’s disposal are going to waste.

Putting ‘trust’ in Maguire is counter productive

Southgate insisted when he took the England job that players would be picked on form and that he would disregard reputation when picking his teams.

Somewhat contradicting that is his steadfast faith in Maguire, who is struggling terribly at club level and whose confidence is shot to pieces.

His performance against Germany, in which he was at fault for two of the three Germany goals, will do nothing to protect him from the scrutiny he has faced in recent times and others in the squad will surely be looking on wondering why they weren’t given a chance to stake a claim.

England play to cover their weaknesses

Against teams like Italy and Germany, when England will need to endure periods without the ball, the team looks unstable and disjointed.

When games are tight they seem afraid to take risks and often find themselves far too deep; Luke Shaw and Reece James at wing-back spent much of the first half against Germany in their own half, while Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham were often receiving the ball almost on top of their centre halves.

Playing to cover their obvious deficiencies, England are within their shell and a team there for the taking. Success at the World Cup will of course hinge on the team playing to their strengths rather than becoming preoccupied by their weaknesses.

England are a good team when forced to attack

England’s midfielder Mason Mount (R) celebrates scoring the team’s second goal with England’s midfielder Declan Rice during the UEFA Nations League group A3 football match between England and Germany at Wembley stadium in north London on September 26, 2022.

To that point, when they went two goals down on Monday night, the Three Lions sprung into action.

They appeared to begin playing without inhibition and quickly scored two goals of their own — a penalty won by Bellingham who was finding himself in increasingly dangerous positions in the final third, plus a fine strike from substitute Mason Mount.

If they can unlock that kind of free-flowing and efficient football in Qatar they will cause their opponents serious problems, but in the lead up to the tournament, Southgate has failed to convince many that he will be able to achieve this.

Bukayo Saka must start

At the tender age of 21, Bukayo Saka has become a talisman for Arsenal and has largely translated that form to the national team.

It was his saved penalty that secured EURO 2020 for Italy but his unswerving bounceback from that is testament to his talent and character. When he came on in the second half against Germany he changed the game, giving England a dynamism and directness that they had lacked prior to his introduction.

One clear message to the manager from the night is surely to play Saka in his preferred position on that right flank as opposed to at left wing-back, where he was deployed to no effect the week before in England’s opening game of the international break.