England made it three wins from three heading into the European Championships this summer as they top their World Cup qualifying group following a 2-1 win over Poland at Wembley.
After beating San Marino and then Albania, Gareth Southgate’s men came back to their home to take on the Robert Lewandowski-less Poles. Harry Kane’s penalty gave them the lead too, making the Spurs man the player to score the most penalties in national team history with ten so far.
Poland fought back well in the second half and applied lots of pressure, forcing an error from John Stones to equalise through Jakub Moder with a fine strike into the top corner. England struggled to really create any chances but did find a late winner, when Stones headed a corner back across goal and found Harry Maguire who emphatically volleyed the ball into the roof of the net.
The result means with just 71 days to go until the Euros kick off, England are five points clear of Poland at the top of their World Cup qualifying group for the following year.
Southgate made it clear during this international break that he knows his starting lineup for the Euro’s and although a few players were missing, the lineup seems pretty obvious now.
In goal, Jordan Pickford will be the man. The Everton stopper undoubtedly has is flaws, but he has earned the trust of the England gaffer and with Nick Pope not having much to do to be able to impress, he’ll return to understudy duties if Pickford is fit.
In defence, Harry Maguire and John Stones have cemented their places. Maguire has had his place guaranteed for a while but Stones had lost his place following some inconsistent seasons with Man City. With Joe Gomez emerging with Liverpool, he seemed most likely until his injury ruled him out of the tournament. With Tyrone Mings the next most likely to get a starting spot, Maguire and Stones’ performances will have convinced Southgate.
Full-back is probably the positions most up for grabs currently. Reece James and Kyle Walker got plenty of game time each, while Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t make the cut this time around. The way they end their individual seasons could have a big say, but as it stands I think the pace and versatility of Walker will get him the nod. On the left, Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell are competing for a spot and currently I think the Chelsea man has the advantage having started two of the three games. Shaw was given a chance to impress and did, yet Chilwell still got the nod in the next game and that leads me to believe he will get the nod a the Euros too.
Midfield seems pretty set in stone at this point too. Despite an abundance of attacking talent, Southgate seems intent on lining up with two defensive minded central midfield players – even doing so against San Marino.
Jordan Henderson will almost certainly start alongside Declan Rice if he is fit, but there are doubts about whether or not he will be available. That should leave opportunities for the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and others to make an appearance but Kalvin Phillips started all three games during this break and that tells me he will be the man to get the nod once more.
Mason Mount is another who could start in central midfield but Southgate seems to prefer him in a more advanced number ten role. He has started each of the last eight international games and is regularly on the receiving end of praise from the manager, so his inclusion is near certain now.
Harry Kane is an obvious pick up front as he continues to score goals and perform well for England, while also being the man selected to wear the captain’s armband. Flanking him, Raheem Sterling is just as sure of his place.
The Man City man started on the left wing for this international break but has regularly been used on the right for the national team and is more likely to return there for the Euros. England have most of their depth in the left-wing position but the position is likely sewn up, fitness permitting.
Despite the fantastic form of Jack Grealish this season and his excellent performances for England, as well as Foden’s ability to perform in wide positions too and Jadon Sancho’s obvious quality, it’s Marcus Rashford who will get the starting berth.
His direct running, skill and goal threat are things he has over his opposition for the position but most importantly it’s the pace he possesses that sets him apart from the all. He has earned the trust of Southgate and his performances for both club and country mean it can’t be argued about too much either.