England played out two friendlies during the March international break as they begin preparations for the 2022 World Cup.
Owing to injuries and Covid-related issues, Gareth Southgate was unable to call upon a full-strength squad for the clashes with Switzerland and Ivory Coast, however the two games did give some fringe stars a chance to stake a claim for their spot in Qatar.
But who grabbed that brass ring and who failed to take their opportunity? 101 Great Goals have taken a look at every player who was involved in the March games that did not drop out of the squad at some point and ranked how close they are to being on the plane to Qatar using three categories.
The first is ‘On the plane’ which suggests said player is basically guaranteed to be in Qatar barring some sort of injury problem.
The next is ‘At St George’s Park’, which means the player is certainly in the mix to be taken to the 2022 World Cup, but nothing is nailed just yet.
And the final category is ‘Still at home’, which means that player is still a long way off being included in England’s World Cup squad.
Jordan Pickford (On the plane)
Decent first game vs Switzerland and was then benched against Ivory Coast. Pickford is already pretty much nailed as England’s first choice due to his previous excellent form for his country though, so he had little to prove in March.
Nick Pope (At St George’s Park)
Of the three goalkeepers England originally picked for the March ties, Nick Pope’s spot in Qatar is the least secure.
The Burnley man is not great with his feet - a trait Southgate values highly - and if Sam Johnstone or Dean Henderson are able to impress in the first half of 2021/22, they will likely take his spot on the plane.
Fraser Foster (Still at home)
Only ended up in the squad due to Aaron Ramsdale’s issue and then Sam Johnstone pulling out, and didn’t get any minutes this month. It seems like the only way he will end up in Qatar is if one or two other keepers are forced to pull out.
Conor Coady (At St George’s Park)
Had a quiet game vs Switzerland and then did not feature vs Ivory Coast.
Coady didn’t do an awful lot wrong for England this month but with fresh competition from the likes of Guehi and White, his place is more under threat than it was six months ago after an average showing vs Switzerland.
Marc Guehi (At St George’s Park)
Guehi had a solid debut for England vs Switzerland. He was decent on the ball and sharp defensively. His display will not have hurt his chances of earning a spot at the World Cup.
Kyle Walker-Peters (Still at home)
Given the sheer number of right-backs England have, Walker-Peters would have had to have done something amazing this month for him to be truly considered by Southgate unless an injury crisis strikes.
However, he did not do so and was partially at fault for Switzerland’s goal.
Harry Maguire (On the plane)
Maguire continues to come under fire for his dismal club form but, once again, he showed vs Ivory Coast that he remains one of England’s best centre-back options.
The 29-year-old looked confident on the ball and his marauding runs up the pitch are key to starting England attacks.
Tyrone Mings (On the plane)
Mings put on a stellar display vs Ivory Coast, proving himself a very capable back-up option for England’s left-sided centre-back spot.
Given Southgate seems a big fan, his performance vs Ivory Coast has probably done enough to help ensure the Villa defender keeps his place in Qatar.
Luke Shaw (On the plane)
Shaw, despite his club form, continues to impress for his country. The left-back scored a superb goal in the friendly vs Switzerland
Given England’s lack of top left-backs right now, Shaw is almost certainly set to be in Qatar this winter regardless of his form for Manchester United.
Ben White (Still at home)
England’s latest set of games did little to endear White to Southgate. The Arsenal man started vs Switzerland but his lack of aerial presence, which has been on show for Arsenal this season as well, cost England a goal.
White was then used at right-back for 45 minutes vs Ivory Coast, which really did not help his cause as he is obviously not going to be taken to Qatar as a right-back.
Tyrick Mitchell (Still at home)
Mitchell was handed a sub outing vs Switzerland and an hour vs Ivory Coast. He did little wrong with his time on the pitch, but the Crystal Palace full-back also did nothing of note that could convince Southgate to drop one of Shaw or Ben Chilwell.
Jude Bellingham (At St George’s Park)
Bellingham was handed a start vs Ivory Coast and he did not disappoint, venturing forward and causing them all sorts of issues on the day – something very few of England’s current central midfielders do. A bright display that is likely to have further increased his chances of making it to Qatar.
Conor Gallagher (Still at home)
Gallagher, like Bellingham, is a fairly adventurous central midfielder who sometimes forgoes defensive solidity for the sake of attacking.
This can be a useful asset to have in your squad, but given Southgate’s generally defensive demeanour, it is expected he will take only one of Bellingham or Gallagher to Qatar.
And though Gallagher looked decent vs Switzerland and even provided an assist, Bellingham got the better of him this month.
Declan Rice (On the plane)
Helped see the game out vs Switzerland and controlled the midfield vs Ivory Coast. Remains a shoo-in for England’s World Cup squad.
James Ward-Prowse (Still at home)
Southgate continues to hand James Ward-Prowse chances to impress in fairly meaningless games but, apart from being an excellent set-piece taker, the Southampton star offers little to this England side.
And with the competition for places in midfield heating up, Ward-Prowse looks unlikely to be heading to Qatar after an uninspiring showing vs Ivory Coast.
Jordan Henderson (On the plane)
Did little of note during the March break but Jordan Henderson has too much credit in the bank with Southgate to lose his spot anytime soon.
Mason Mount (On the plane)
Like Henderson, Mason Mount had a quiet break but his place in the squad remains secure due to his previous performances for England.
Jack Grealish (On the plane)
Despite his obvious talent, there is always a question mark over Jack Grealish’s involvement for England whilst Southgate is at the helm.
However, Grealish impressed vs Ivory Coast, creating several shooting opportunities for himself and his teammates – including providing an assist for Raheem Sterling’s goal.
Barring Sterling, Grealish was England’s most impressive attacking midfielder/winger across the break.
Phil Foden (On the plane)
Was not the most eye-catching break from Foden but he did get an assist vs Ivory Coast and had little to prove heading into these games anyway.
Emile Smith Rowe (Still at home)
An injury issue ruled Smith Rowe out of the first game vs Switzerland, and he then did little to make an impression during his sub appearance in the second game. With so many attacking midfielders for Southgate to choose from, it is not the break ESR will have wanted.
Raheem Sterling (On the plane)
Sterling was already expected to make it to Qatar, but his superb showing vs Ivory Coast once again highlighted why Gareth Southgate continues to rely on the winger so regularly. The Manchester City man dominated the African outfit, setting up one and then scoring in England’s 2-0 win.
Ollie Watkins (At St George’s Park)
After Tammy Abraham’s withdrawal, this was a great chance for Watkins to put forward his case for a place in Qatar. The Aston Villa man did little during his sub appearance vs Switzerland, but he scored vs the Ivory Coast and his hold-up play was excellent, which will not have hurt his chances of being England’s back-up no.9 this winter.
Harry Kane (On the plane)
Edged closer to Wayne Rooney’s England goal-scoring record with a penalty vs Switzerland and then did little with his 30 minutes in the Three Lions’ last game, but Kane is obviously going to the World Cup as England’s main striker anyway.