UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers: 4 England World Cup stars whose international careers could be over
It might seem a little hard to believe, but it’s only 15 months since England’s stirring run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That might be a short amount of time, but for Gareth Southgate’s side – who have played a total of 12 games since the tournament ended last July – a lot has changed.
The Three Lions have switched their formation from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 setup, and while key players from the World Cup such as Harry Kane and Harry Maguire remain in Southgate’s first-choice XI, in general, today’s squad is almost unrecognisable from the 23 players who travelled to Russia last summer.
For the upcoming games against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, just 10 of that World Cup squad remain as part of the England set-up. John Stones, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph are all injured while a handful – names like Jamie Vardy and Gary Cahill – have retired from international football.
Some of the others, though, have simply been jettisoned by Southgate. The likes of Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck have barely featured since the World Cup, but other key members of that squad have only recently been dropped, much to the surprise of their fans. And for the following 5 players, it could well be the case that their international careers are over.
#1 Kyle Walker
Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker was a key member of Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, as he moved from his usual spot as a full-back to play as a member of England’s three-man defence alongside Harry Maguire and John Stones.
When Southgate switched to a 4-3-3 formation last autumn for the UEFA Nations League, it seemed like Walker would be part of a three-way battle with Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold for the first-choice right-back position – but unfortunately for the veteran, it now appears that the battle is over – and has been lost.
Walker still seemed to have the favour of Southgate going into the Nations League finals this summer, with Trippier being dropped from the squad instead. But after a weak showing in England’s 3-1 loss to the Netherlands, with the Manchester City man making a number of mistakes, things changed during the last two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo.
Walker was left out of the squad, with Southgate’s explanation being that he wanted to try out his younger stars – Alexander-Arnold and Aaron Wan-Bissaka – in the right-back slot, as well as re-integrate the resurgent Trippier into the squad. But with those two games done, Walker has not been called back into the current squad, with Trippier and Alexander-Arnold being named instead.
Southgate hasn’t stated that this is the end of the road for Walker, but realistically, he’s 29 years old and while he clearly offers pace and power on the right side of the defence, it’s perhaps arguable now that Alexander-Arnold offers more going forward while Wan-Bissaka is perhaps a better defender. Walker has been a key man to the Three Lions for the best part of 4 years now – but to see him left out entirely going forward would not be surprising.