Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Harry Maguire – Sportsmail's experts pick their England XI for the Euros


So should it be Rashford or Foden, Phillips or Henderson, Pope or Pickford?

Sportsmail’s experts sift through the evidence from the international break – and Wednesday night’s Poland match in particular – to come up with a combined England XI that should start the first Euros test against Croatia on Sunday, June 13 at Wembley. 

You’re very welcome, Mr Southgate!

England manager Gareth Southgate has plenty to ponder ahead of their opening Euros match

England manager Gareth Southgate has plenty to ponder ahead of their opening Euros match

CHRIS SUTTON ON THE STRIKERS 

There are a couple of non-negotiables in England’s front three. One is Harry Kane, the other is Raheem Sterling. Who then completes the trio is where it starts to get interesting.

Marcus Rashford will be gutted to have had to miss these internationals because of an ankle injury. He’ll have been rooting for his country from home, but it can be awkward watching other players impress in your position.

He wants that left-hand side to himself but saw Sterling use his ways to win a penalty against Poland which Kane then converted. Here, in England’s final competitive fixture before Euro 2020, Phil Foden was given the chance by Gareth Southgate to make the opposite flank his own.

Harry Kane (left) and Raheem Sterling are two shoo-ins for England's front three at the Euros

Harry Kane (left) and Raheem Sterling are two shoo-ins for England’s front three at the Euros

It was left-footed Foden on the right, and right-footed Sterling on the left. That’s a set-up Pep Guardiola likes, too, given that’s what helped Manchester City defeat Everton 2-0 in the FA Cup quarter-final before this break. It means they can cut inside on to their preferred foot and see the entire picture in front of them.

Foden showed on Wednesday night he isn’t one for staying wide and hugging the touchline. There is no white chalk on that boy’s boots. He drifts inside and was actually the one who won possession centrally prior to Sterling being fouled for the penalty.

Southgate must love this problem. He’s got an embarrassment of riches in that final third. But I know what my combination would be. I sat down last week to work out my preferred England XI for Euro 2020 and decided on: Rashford on the left, Kane central and Sterling on the right. That’s what I’d like to see.

Wednesday night’s game seemed to go a little flat after Poland equalised. There seemed more space further up the field than there was in the first half, and that’s where the rapid Rashford can excel.

You may disagree, and that’s absolutely fine. You may fancy Foden in there, or Jadon Sancho, or even Jack Grealish, like my fellow Sportsmail columnist Micah Richards. Every one of them has his merits.

Amid all this, I do wonder where Mason Mount ends up. Southgate loves Mount. Poland was his eighth-straight start in an England shirt. After the line-ups were announced, I did wonder if we’d see him playing on the right wing instead of Foden. But he was on the left of the midfield three on this occasion. Up against a Poland side playing a deep 5-3-2, it wasn’t easy for England’s forwards to find space.

There were times when Foden had at least two Poland shirts blocking his path into the box. But this was a good test for England. They might come up against low blocks at this summer’s tournament and have to find ways through.

We’re all praying it doesn’t happen, but if Kane picked up a problem ahead of Euro 2020, Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be a natural replacement. I’d say Patrick Bamford is the closest English striker to Kane but we all know that is not going to happen, don’t we?

So Calvert-Lewin would be the next best. Overall, attack-wise, England are proving excellent to watch. It’s a final third full of positivity.

My strikers for the Euros: Sterling, Kane and Rashford.

IAN LADYMAN ON THE MIDFIELD 

For the likes of Grealish and James Maddison, this has been a bad England squad to miss.

Players such as Rashford – who is injured – and Trent Alexander-Arnold – dropped – can expect to be back in Gareth Southgate’s party when it convenes for the European Championship.

As for missing midfield players, it is harder to say.

Southgate has a deepening well of talent available in that area and it is clear that, despite an uncertain England performance here, those involved in the three games over the last week have taken some steps forward.

It feels rough on Grealish in particular. The outstanding player when England last got together last November, injury has now moved the Aston Villa player further down the queue for a place in the team than he probably deserves to be.

But that is what international football should be about. One player takes a step backwards and another moves up.

This was an England performance that lacked a little creativity after a promising 40 minutes. Southgate’s players must at times find a little more urgency.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how players such as Declan Rice and particularly Mason Mount can be left out of the England midfield three in the short and medium term.

Mount, only 22, has been the most impressive player of three England performances while Rice, the West Ham holding player, has not been far behind.

Mount played with confidence once again here, especially in the first half. Most of what was progressive and good about England went through the Chelsea man. He sees the picture so easily and passes the ball quickly and without fuss.

Early on he played Ben Chilwell to the byline and England would have scored had the cross not been six inches too high for the unmarked Foden. Later in the first half, with England ahead and playing smoothly, his pass to Foden opened things up for Kane.

Rice’s role is different. His duties are more clearly defined. Protect the England back four and move the ball forwards when possible. It sounds easy but isn’t. Rice is mobile, two-footed and clever. He has learned quickly what international football is about. This was only his 15th appearance but already he looks as though he has played more.

If Mount and Rice remain free of injury between now and the summer, it is hard to see how they do not start against Croatia on June 13 at Wembley.

Southgate will always play two deeper lying midfielders and in his head the other will be Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson.

Not due to return from his own injury until the end of April, Henderson should still have time and he will be given it. England need experience to go with some of their coltish bravado and Henderson’s 58 caps mean that he will surely play if at all possible.

Grealish’s best chance may yet be as part of England’s front three. Maddison, as harsh as it sounds, may be on the sofa.

My midfield for the Euros: Henderson, Rice, Mount.

DOMINIC KING ON THE DEFENCE

The easy thing to do would be scream for change. The unnecessary goal England conceded in the 57th minute will have John Stones’ critics saying he should be removed from the starting line-up and Gareth Southgate must revert to three central defenders.

England’s head coach needs to block out the noise and stick with the four-man defence that he has used through these fixtures. Most importantly, he needs to persist with the men who have made this formation possible.

First let’s address the Stones error: it was stupid, the kind that will always receive maximum punishment in international football. But if you think it is symptomatic of the way he has been playing for Manchester City, think again.

Stones is not perfect – name a defender who is? – but Southgate knows his qualities. Of course, both men will have been vexed by the needless way Poland were gifted a goal yet Stones is currently the best English defender in the business and he must start against Croatia.

He and Harry Maguire have to be the central defensive partnership. It would feel regressive – and too cautious – for Southgate to play three (or five, depending on how you look at it) at the back, as it dilutes England’s attacking threat. Play the flat back four but have Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right and the rejuvenated Luke Shaw on the left.

Granted, the signs do not look good for Liverpool’s right back, having been ditched from this squad, but if Southgate is not playing wing-backs why overlook the 21-year-old? When in form, he is outstanding.

Then it’s who plays in goal? Nick Pope has done nothing wrong through this latest round of fixtures and he should have more zeros to his name than you used to see alongside English batsmen during a second-innings collapse.

Burnley’s goalkeeper had gone into the history books after not conceding in any of his first six caps. It was quite the statistic and it seemed certain to reach a seventh until Stones dithered. As a result, he conceded his first England goal after 537 minutes.

Has Pope done enough to play in that opening Euro 2020 game? The answer is no. There were flashes against Albania and Poland when his distribution was not slick enough and he is behind Everton’s Jordan Pickford in that respect. Southgate trusts Pickford and has never been let down by him. If fit, he will get the gloves against Croatia. If back-up Pope is required, though, he will not let anyone down.

My defence for the Euros: Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Shaw.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.