10 England players fighting for their Euro 2020 spot in the World Cup qualifiers

27 March 2021 09:20

A walk-in-the-park World Cup qualifier against San Marino will never be the most 'high stakes' of contests, but for this current crop of England players, the pressure is on more than ever.

The Three Lions cruised to a 5-0 victory over the world's worst national team, with a couple of new faces and returning stars catching the eye.

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The reason for the major interest in this hammering was not for the World Cup itself, but for the fast-approaching, rearranged Euro 2020 tournament.

This current group of stars may feel they have taken one step towards the summer competition with their inclusion in Gareth Southgate's latest squad, but there are a number of players whose place is simply not safe.

So, as the Three Lions prepare for their World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Poland, here are 10 players still fighting to nail down their spot in the Euro 2020 squad.

1. Nick Pope

Southgate must be having nightmares about his number one goalkeeper. Jordan Pickford has suffered an error-ridden couple of years since the 2018 World Cup, but the England boss has stuck by the Everton star regardless. Could that be about to change?

Nick Pope is a shoo-in to make the final squad, but he must fancy his chances at snatching that number one spot in Pickford's injury absence, and this will be his last chance to impress Southgate in the Three Lions jersey ahead of the Euro 2020 squad announcement.

2. Sam Johnstone

What a time to get your first England call up! Sam Johnstone has earned this honour, having put in some memorable displays for West Bromwich Albion over the course of the season.

His arrival in the national set up comes as a result of Pickford's absence, so he'll do well to secure himself a seat on the plane for the summer. Still, there's time to show Southgate what he can do.

3. Eric Dier

He must be looking over his shoulder now | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Eric Dier's form has nosedived so significantly this year, that even number one fan Jose Mourinho has lost patience with the 27-year-old. Southgate has not given up on the versatile Tottenham Hotspur star, but it's getting harder and harder to understand how he constantly pops up on the team sheet.

Dier's holding onto his spot in the squad by the skin of his teeth, and if given the chance in this break, he needs to deliver solid and commanding displays all round.

4. Luke Shaw

Not even Scrooge, the Grinch or any other fictional, miserable character would begrudge Luke Shaw his brilliant career revival. The Manchester United full-back's performances had been so poor in recent years, that he has only earned two England caps since Southgate took charge of the Three Lions.

Now the outstanding candidate in his position, there are calls for Shaw to be first-choice ahead of Ben Chilwell at Euro 2020. He's timed his charge back into national contention perfectly, and with his rival struggling to get a game for Chelsea, the left-back spot could be Shaw's by the summer. Well deserved, too.

5. Kyle Walker

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Kyle Walker may have received the vote of confidence ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold for this England squad, but he must be looking over his shoulder, too.

Kieran Trippier is one of Southgate's faves, and Reece James impresses every time he pulls on an England shirt. Walker's flexibility and adaptability gives him the edge over Alexander-Arnold, but if he continues to play second fiddle to Joao Cancelo at Manchester City, it could become tricky for Southgate to justify his selection.

6. Jude Bellingham

Jude Bellingham's rise from the Championship to international footballer in less than a season has been extraordinary. Southgate has deemed the 17-year-old to be too good for the Under-21's during this break, meaning he is clearly in his plans for the summer.

So, he's got the talent. But international tournaments are a whole other kettle of fish, and while Borussia Dortmund are convinced he can cut it, the England boss may lean on more experienced heads for the European Championships.

It'd be bonkers if he missed out, but more surprising things have happened in football.

7. Kalvin Phillips

There is no doubting Kalvin Phillips' talent, and you can appreciate his influence on a game by watching Leeds United with, and then without him in their side. For England however, he's not quite hit the ground running.

International football is a high-pressure, tough environment for a player, and the 25-year-old needs to demonstrate he's got the tools and the minerals to deal with such situations.

it'd help if Southgate played to the playmaker's strengths, in fairness to him.

8. James Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse is quite a divisive figure in this England team. Other than his set-piece ability, he leaves viewers occasionally unsure of what he brings to the team, and whether he can have the desired impact in the latter stages of a European competition.

The other half (mainly Southampton supporters) believe he is criminally underrated, and think the rest of us are blind for not appreciating his true quality.

I wonder which side Southgate will eventually fall on.

9. Jesse Lingard

Southgate must be delighted by Jesse Lingard's return to form. The West Ham United loanee was always one of the coach's firm favourites, but he became un-pickable during his slump at Manchester United.

But Lingard is probably the most in-form and productive attacking midfielder in the Premier League as we approach the end of the season, and his Man of the Match display against San Marino has thrown him back into contention.

A similar final two months of form to end the season, and the 28-year-old should see his Euro dream come true.

10. Ollie Watkins

If you're looking to cement your place in Southgate's plans for the summer, scoring on your debut is a mighty fine way to go about it. Admittedly, Ollie Watkins was facing San Marino, but let's take nothing away from the guy!

The 25-year-old's form has dipped since Jack Grealish suffered an injury for Aston Villa, and with Patrick Bamford breathing down his neck for the final attacking spot, Watkins must get firing between now and the end of the season. It's going to be a photo finish.

Source: 90min