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Predicted: How England will line up at World Cup 2026

The Three Lions are sitting on a conveyer belt of talent, but how will they use it?

England crashed out at the World Cup quarter-final stage despite a valiant effort against France, falling to a 2-1 defeat in Qatar.

Despite this, however, plenty of England fans were optimistic for the future, pointing to the youthful nature of the side selected by Gareth Southgate for the tournament, and are already looking ahead to future tournaments.

How will they line up in 2026, though, with plenty of stalwarts likely to have played the final World Cup of their careers? 101 Great Goals took a look at how the Three Lions might set up in the USA in four years time.

GK: Aaron Ramsdale

Jordan Pickford is still England’s no.1, and at 28 years old he could remain so for World Cup 2026, but we think it’ll be Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale that takes that spot for the tournament in the USA.

The Gunners shot-stopper will be 28 years old, the same age as Pickford at this tournament, and could be a massive improvement in between the posts for the Three Lions.

RB: Reece James

Despite his best efforts, Kyle Walker can’t go on forever, and both he and Kieran Trippier will be 36 years old by the time the next World Cup comes around. It opens the door for a changing of the guard at right-back, and Reece James has already begun impressing in an England shirt under Gareth Southgate.

CB: John Stones

After three tournaments together, the defensive pairing of Harry Maguire and John Stones is almost certain to be broken up for the next tournament, and in truth both could be moved out of the starting XI.

However, at 28, John Stones is a year younger than his central defensive partner, while he can also stake a claim to being one of the best defenders in world football. As World Cup 2022 has shown, veteran defenders can thrive, and at 32 years old we expect Stones to have a big role to play in the USA.

CB: Marc Guehi

At present, there appear to be three candidates for this role, with Ben White and Fikayo Tomori both honourable mentions, while Levi Colwill could also come into the reckoning.

We have opted for left-footed defender Marc Guehi, however, already the captain of Crystal Palace and seemingly destined for excellence. The 22-year-old made his England debut in March 2022, and could be set for a big future in a Three Lions shirt.

LB: Luke Shaw

Shaw will turn 31-years-old during the next tournament, but has been a mainstay down the left flank for England in recent tournaments and, despite competition from Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, Shaw’s performances for the Three Lions are more than enough to warrant his continued inclusion.

CDM: Declan Rice

Already one of the most talented defensive midfielders in the Premier League and around Europe, Rice will be in his prime by the time England head to the USA to contest World Cup 2026, and will almost certainly be one of the key parts of the Three Lions side as he anchors the midfield, and the hopes of a nation.

CM: Jude Bellingham

2022 cemented Jude Bellingham as a mainstay in England’s midfield for the next decade, and the Borussia Dortmund talent will still be just 23 years old come 2026. Given his frightening performances for both Borussia Dortmund and the Three Lions, he will be one of the first names on the teamsheet, and could prove to be truly world class by the time the next tournament rolls around.

CM: Jobe Bellingham

What’s better than one Bellingham?

Well, if you ask some people, Jobe has all the tools to be even better than his brother, and will be just 20 years old come World Cup 2026. Given how much of an impression Jude made in Qatar, could his brother follow in his footsteps, playing side-by-side in England’s engine room?

RW: Bukayo Saka

One of England’s brightest sparks in Qatar, and ending the competition the Three Lions’ joint top goalscorer, Bukayo Saka seems to have made the right-wing spot his own under current management, and has all the tools to do so under any management.

The Arsenal man, who only turned 21 in September, will be in his mid-twenties when England’s next chance to contest the World’s biggest trophy comes around, and could be a major player once more for the Three Lions.

ST: Folarin Balogun

This was the hardest position on the pitch to choose. Will Harry Kane still be world class at 33 years old? Will it be Tammy Abraham who realises his massive potential to lead the line at a tournament where he will be 29?

We aren’t sold on either idea, so we’ve gone for another young star in the form of Folarin Balogun, who currently leads the line for England’s U21 side and is impressing in Ligue 1. The 21-year-old has netted eight times in 15 outings in the French top flight, and though England face a fight from the USA for his services, should they secure them you should expect to see him in the first team setup sooner rather than later.

LW: Phil Foden

It took some time to get Phil Foden into England’s XI, but the Manchester City star’s talent is undoubted. Whether he continues to play on the wing or is shifted more centrally remains to be seen, but he looks to be one of England’s all-time top talents and will almost certainly be starting England’s 2026 World Cup opener, at the ripe old age of 26.


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