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Bellingham central to plans but who else might make England World Cup squad in 2026?

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The oldest player in England’s Euro 2020 squad was also the oldest in their 2022 World Cup squad. And if, in Kyle Walker, he could have been the fastest as well, there’s a chance a flyer The 36-year-old may still be England’s fastest footballer by the time the next World Cup begins.

But most likely, Walker’s World Cup career ended with his excellent performance against Kylian Mbappé on Saturday. He won’t be alone in that. England’s age profile felt almost perfect for Euro 2020 and this World Cup. They have little need for a major overhaul before Euro 2024. But by the time, assuming they qualify, they cross the Atlantic in 2026, it will be with a different cast list. Probably a different manager too, and the eventual successor to Gareth Southgate, either now or in 2024, will have his own priorities and preferences. The squad four years from now will reflect the system and style of play, which players have progressed and regressed, who is injured and who has emerged.

But there will be changes. Walker and Kieran Trippier could give way to a younger generation of right-backs, in Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who are likely to need a manager change to get an extended chance. England lack upper-class left-footed left-backs and if Luke Shaw is not at a third World Cup, 12 years after the first, a right-footer like James Justin could fill that flank.

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Southgate’s favorite group of central defenders will be in their mid-thirties before Euro 2024, not to mention the upcoming World Cup.

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John Stones, as the most stylish, may have the most staying power, while Harry Maguire’s lack of speed could curtail his England career. From a younger group, Joe Gomez’s pace and potential can be undermined by injuries and inconsistency. Levi Colwill has the advantage of being left-handed, which will be even more important if lefty Harry Maguire breaks through. Ben White, Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori represent options that Southgate hasn’t adequately explored.

In midfield and attack, England could face contrasting scenarios.

It seems that they are going to have an excess of alternatives for the attacking midfield, the wing and number 10 positions; rather less compelling options for high-quality defensive midfielders and outright forwards.

It makes Declan Rice even more important and increases the chances that Kalvin Phillips, with his range of passing from a reserve role, will be required after his 30th birthday; there is no natural successor to Jordan Henderson, although Mason Mount, who has now been displaced by Jude Bellingham, may want to dig deeper to try and break into the team alongside the Borussia Dortmund prodigy.

Bellingham is so precocious that he may be England’s youngest player in successive World Cup squads. Harvey Elliott, 12 weeks his senior, could be in his peer group by 2026. Perhaps Carney Chukwuemeka could surpass his former Aston Villa teammate Jacob Ramsey, his current Chelsea colleague Conor Gallagher and Emile Smith. Rowe, for a role as box-to-box runner

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Certainly, the competition for places could squeeze some talent.

Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish will be on the wrong side of 30 by 2026; Sterling, like Shaw, was a teenager in the 2014 squad and his career would be one of extraordinary longevity if he is still around, but a Southgate favorite may find himself benched more often by another manager to prioritize Phil Foden. , Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford. Grealish could face the challenge of another Pep Guardiola that he is polishing, in Cole Palmer. James Maddison may find Foden or Bellingham installed at No. 10 by then.

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Jadon Sancho represents one talent who could be back on the right track by 2026. Another is already on the mend, and despite England being blessed with talented attackers, they may not be able to ignore Marcus Edwards for much longer.

He has operated as a striker on occasion for Sporting CP and, in the absence of a No. 9 production line, the versatility of the two Marcuses, Edwards and Rashford, could come in handy – anyone could play a central role in 2026. Maybe goal weight and the need for a focal point in attack allow Tammy Abraham to force his way in, but a futuristic clearance may well be Leeds’ dynamic impact substitute Joe Gelhardt.

And perhaps the oldest member of the 2026 squad will have 70 or 80 international goals by then. Harry Kane won’t turn 33 until after the next World Cup. The lack of alternatives can keep him whole even if this World Cup has shown the difficulties of building around an aging striker. But by then, it should be the team of Foden and Bellingham and Saka and Rice. The focus may shift from Southgate stalwarts to the youngsters he has bled dry. The staff will be formed by him, but could have the imprint of a successor with different ideas and new faces.

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Possible England squad for the 2026 World Cup (ages as of June 1, 2026)

goalkeepers

  • Jordan Pickford, 32
  • Aaron Ramsdale, 28
  • Dean Henderson, 29

Laterals

  • Reece James, 26
  • Trent Alexander-Arnold, 27
  • Jamie Justin, 28
  • Ben Chilwell, 29

central defenders

  • Juan Piedras, 32
  • Levi Colwill, 23
  • Marc Guehi, 25
  • Fikayo Tomori, 28
  • ben white, 28

central midfielders

  • Declan Rice, 27
  • Calvin Phillips, 30
  • Jude Bellingham, 22
  • Carney Chukwuemeka, 22

Attacking midfielders and open forwards

  • Harvey Elliott, 23
  • Mount Mason, 27
  • Phil Foden, 26
  • Jadon Sancho, 26
  • Bukayo Saka, 24
  • Cole Palmer, 24

strikers

  • Mark Rashford, 28
  • Mark Edwards, 27
  • Joe Gelhardt, 24
  • Harry Kane, 32

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