England World Cup squad: Five hopefuls who might have left it too late to make Gareth Southgate’s selection

Will it be too little, too late for England hopefuls such as Ivan Toney and Eric Dier?

Who doesn’t love a tense aeroplane thriller - whether it’s Con Air, Snakes On A Plane, or that biannual nail-biter, England’s major tournament squad announcement?

Yep, every two years, a country loses its mind over the who, why, and wherefore of a 23-man squad that, as yet, hasn’t lifted a trophy since 1966.

But as Gareth Southgate edges every closer to ending that heartbreak and bringing football homeTM, the Gordian knot of his selection choices becomes evermore tangled and complex.

This year promises to be no different, with the Qatar World Cup now just a matter of weeks away.

And with just two games left to go before the Three Lions jet off for the Middle East, there remain a number of unanswered questions about who might make the cut.

For some, however, you would fancy that the biggest hurdle they have to overcome is convincing the manager to include them when he has such little time to integrate, or indeed reintegrate, them into his plans.

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With that in mind, here are five contenders who may just have run out of time to convince Southgate that they are worth taking a gamble on...

Dan Burn

Dan Burn only has nine fingers, but he and Newcastle United fans alike must be wondering whether it is in fact Gareth Southgate who has misplaced the defender’s digits in recent times.

The Toon colossus’ stature and immense popularity in the north east is such that it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to discover that his real dad is in fact Anthony Gormley.

An obvious physical presence who also boasts the versatility and ability needed to play at left-back, Burn has arguably shown far greater form than a number of players who are much more likely to get the nod than he is this winter.

Eric Dier

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Time will tell on Eric Dier, who is being widely touted for a return to the England squad this week.

Certainly, the Tottenham Hotspur defender looks to have rekindled the kind of form that made him a permanent fixture of the national setup once over.

Assured and spirited, the 28-year-old also has the distinct advantage of regularly operating in a back three at club level.

He may look like every smalltown nightclub bouncer you’ve ever had the displeasure of crossing paths with, but will it be Dier who sneaks past the door and into Southgate’s plans?

Anthony Gordon

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The Premier League’s foremost Princess Diana/George Michael/Claire Balding impersonator, Anthony Gordon’s bid to secure a similar level of national sweetheartedness might have to wait just a little while longer.

Everton’s emerging wunderkind continues to be a silver lining on the hulking grey cloud that has taken up residence over Goodison Park, and his impressive record with England’s U21s will no doubt stand him good stead in Southgate’s eyes, but given the depth of attacking talent at the Three Lions’ disposal, it’s hard to see thim being in contention this time around.

Could Gordon make it into the squad by Euro 2024, however? Perhaps. He’s just got to have a little faith, faith, faith.

Eberechi Eze

Eberechi Eze is a superbly gifted footballer, as anyone who has seen him in full flight can attest.

The Crystal Palace midfielder glides and bamboozles with a pleasing ease, and the romantic within will always hope that there is space for a player of his ilk in the national team.

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Again, however, Southgate isn’t exactly short of options in that regard, and at the moment, Eze’s material output might just be the thing holding him back.

Ivan Toney

The only thing terrible about this Ivan is his timing.

Brentford’s talismanic forward continues to make a compelling argument for his inclusion in Qatar, but the big question, as with those aforementioned players above, is whether or not Southgate would feel comfortable dropping him in at the deep end so soon.

Of course, the likelihood of Toney meaningfully featuring at the World Cup would be slim, given that he would be in direct competition with Harry Kane for minutes, but nevertheless, it’s hard to shake the feeling that his chances would be significantly increased if he already had caps to his name.

It’ll all end in penalties, we know that much, and who better to take one than the man who’s missed just once in 25 attempts in his career thus far?