England have played their final competitive game before Euro 2020 but which players bolstered their claim for a place in the squad during the international break and who might be looking over their shoulder?
The 2-1 win over Poland at Wembley ensures it is nine points out of nine and puts Gareth Southgate’s side in a strong position to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar next year but the focus now shifts to the Euros.
UEFA’s squad deadline is 11pm on June 1 – 10 days before the start of the first game of the tournament – so Southgate is likely to submit his selection the week after the Premier League finale on May 23.
As the big announcement looms, we assess England’s Euro winners and losers after the World Cup qualifying triple-header…
Mount grows ever more important to Gareth Southgate. The 22-year-old started all three of England’s World Cup Qualifiers, taking him to eight consecutive starts for the Three Lions. It’s a run which dates back to October and it underlines his status as a key player.
Southgate has been criticised in the past for his loyalty to Mount but there can’t be too many people questioning his place in the side now. The midfielder, already as important to Thomas Tuchel as he was to Frank Lampard at club level, offers versatility, energy, creativity and goal threat.
Those attributes were all apparent over the course of England’s last three games. Southgate praised Mount for “setting the tone” for the side’s performance against San Marino and he was arguably the best player on the pitch against Albania, playing an important part in the opening goal and scoring the second himself.
An injury meant Pickford was unable to take up his place in the latest squad but he will be confident of retaining the No 1 shirt when Euro 2020 rolls around.
Nick Pope started all three games in his absence, and while he conceded only once, his first in seven appearances for his country, he struggled at times with his distribution.
It is not an area of strength for the Burnley goalkeeper, who is accustomed to playing a more direct style at club level, but playing out from the back is vital to England’s approach under Southgate and it’s something Pickford specialises in.
Pope should benefit from the experience of facing San Marino, Albania and Poland, but Pickford will be quietly confident of keeping his place in the side.
Rob Dorsett, Sky Sports News
“The biggest takeaway for me so far is that in his absence, Jordan Pickford has consolidated his position as No 1. It’s strange because he hasn’t played and though I mean no disrespect to Nick Pope, who became the first England goalkeeper to keep six clean sheets in his first six games, his distribution at times was average and poor by own high standards; Burnley don’t play the ball out from the back. If Pickford is fit, he’s No 1.”
Shaw has come back in from the cold after an impressive return to form at Manchester United. The 25-year-old, who made his England debut way back in 2014, seized his opportunity during the international break and while Ben Chilwell was preferred against Poland, this has been a huge step forward for the left-back.
Shaw hadn’t played for England since September 2018 but he made his mark on his return against Albania, his inch-perfect cross allowing Harry Kane to head home the opening goal late in the first half. With a strong finish to the season, he might yet fancy his chances of edging ahead of Chilwell in the summer.
Lingard’s hopes of making Southgate’s 23-man squad for the Euros looked all but over after he fell out of favour at Manchester United but his loan move to West Ham has put him back in the picture.
The 28-year-old has scored five goals in his first seven appearances for David Moyes’ side and he played a part in all three of England’s games during the international break, with Southgate talking up his “excellent” performance against San Marino.
Lingard has long been a favourite of Southgate’s and he now looks well placed to be involved at this summer’s tournament – providing he is able to sustain his fine form for West Ham in the intervening months.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips
Perhaps the standout performer in the win over Poland, Rice’s importance to Southgate’s England only seems to grow. There was a time when it was his place in the team that was the one being discussed when the manager’s commitment to a double pivot in midfield was questioned. Now it is Rice plus one.
That one might just be Phillips, who started all three of the World Cup Qualifiers and earned plenty of praise from Southgate, who appears to have really taken to the Leeds United player. With Jordan Henderson facing a race against time to prove his fitness, Phillips has gone from squad man to strong contender to start.
This was not the squad to miss and Trent Alexander-Arnold will surely fear that three straight victories has only cemented Southgate’s thinking. Kyle Walker is the man in possession now, a player who has earned the England manager’s trust because of his ability to flit between formations. Reece James is convincing him that he can do the same.
Alexander-Arnold is entitled to feel a little aggrieved in that his struggles in an international shirt came about, in part, because he struggled to adapt to the more advanced starting position when Southgate revisited the back three. Perhaps he would have had more success in a back four. Perhaps there will not be time to find out now before the Euros are upon us.
One of Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady
Mings had little chance to impress during this series of internationals, announcing his presence only with a needless late booking against San Marino, but at this stage of that race, that is the point. Conor Coady’s inclusion ahead of the Aston Villa defender for that game and the reformed partnership between Stones and Harry Maguire leaves him vulnerable.
In particular, the move away from three at the back means there is less of a requirement for a left-footed defender. However, that same change of style is little better news for Coady. He is seen as a specialist in a back three and if Southgate is to commit to four at the back, that could yet be a problem for the Wolves captain.
Rob Dorsett, Sky Sports News
“At the moment I think it also looks like either Mings or Coady will make the squad if you think Maguire and Stones are shoo-ins and you think Dier and Walker can play in different positions. It looks like Coady, who has captained England and whom Southgate sees as a leader, is ahead of Mings in the thinking right now.”
Or is Eric Dier in trouble?
At least Coady and Mings saw some action. Dier did not play a single minute of the three World Cup Qualifiers and that could be a worrying sign for a player who has also fallen out of favour with his club Tottenham.
The experienced Dier has been an unused substitute in Spurs’ last five Premier League games, the only action that he has seen of late being in the two-legged ‘disgrace’ against Dinamo Zagreb. His versatility is an asset but having not played in midfield much for a while, how significant is that really going to be in the summer?
It seemed Pickford’s absence would open the door to Henderson as well as Pope but he returns to Manchester United having not added to the cap he won in November’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
Henderson has been in fine form for his club recently, helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side keep seven clean sheets in nine appearances since stepping into the team in place of David de Gea, but Southgate, perhaps mindful of his inexperience at international level, evidently favours Pope.
Henderson will still be confident of claiming a place in England’s 23-man squad for the Euros, but it seems he will be there as third choice. Hold on to the No 1 shirt at Manchester United and his England prospects are sure to look brighter in the future.
Gareth Southgate might be edging closer to his big Euro 2020 decision but who would be in your squad for the tournament? Pick your 23-man squad and share your selection.
Plenty of you have already picked your squads – and we have pulled together the England XI for the opening European Championship fixture against Croatia as picked by Sky Sports readers…