In an intense and high-class encounter, England crashed out of the World Cup against France, 2-1 in the Quarter-Finals on Saturday, having beaten a dangerous Senegal side 3-0 in the previous round. Captain Harry Kane’s second penalty miss ultimately cost the plucky English side who went toe-to-toe with France and may have progressed if the luck was on their side in Qatar.
England topped Group B after securing comfortable victories against Wales and Iran, alongside a 0-0 draw against USA ensuring 7 points in the group stage. It is clear that this England team are head and shoulders above where they were when they were embarrassed by Iceland back at Euro 2016.
However, as we watch the scenes unfold in Qatar, you can’t help but think: how will England look in 2026?
It is no secret that there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the England team in the buildup to the Qatar World Cup, particularly criticism directed at head coach, Gareth Southgate, following no wins in six games including a 4-0 home drubbing to Hungary. Many questions around the future of Southgate’s role as England manager were raised.
Fans had differing opinions on when he should be sacked, some saying he should go before the trip to
Qatar, some saying he should be sacked if he doesn’t win and some even claiming he should be sent on his way no matter the result in the Middle East.
Regardless of who is in charge, another question raised by England fans is which players will be making the trip to North America in 2026?
The excitement surrounding this England team in the last 4 years has been refreshing to say the least, what with the lack of hope and a run of disappointing results in major tournaments before 2018. Not to mention the solidarity that the success of the team deemed the ‘Golden Generation’ has brought the nation.
To see Wembley in full voice singing to Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ after a 2-0 victory against the Germans, was pretty special. The term ‘Golden Generation’ has been thrown about regularly in the last few years to describe this England team. However, it is difficult to say which players will still be regulars in 2026.
There is no doubt that the team will be very different with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier all aged 32, expected to retire from international football within the next four years.
Instead we look ahead to the players that will be in their prime and those making North America their debut tournament. I’ve picked out five players who I think will be vital for England’s success across the pond.
The 22 year old Mancunian has been a key player in Manchester City’s dominance in the Premier League over the last few seasons. With 8 goals and 3 assists in all competitions this season for the Manchester club, he has been excellent and made himself very hard for Pep Guardiola to drop.
Many criticised Southgate for Foden’s absence against the USA in Qatar, however, he proved himself with a goal in the victory against Wales and two assists against Senegal on Sunday evening.
The Arsenal man’s performance against Iran in the first group game sent out a message of intent to the rest of the world after the agony of the Euro final where he missed the deciding penalty, not to mention the subsequent abuse he received.
The way the 21 year old has conducted himself after this disappointment is something to be applauded alongside his performances. With three goals already in this year’s tournament, Saka will be pivotal if
England are to be successful in North America.
This young man has all of world football talking. At just 19 years of age he has 9 goals and 3 assists in all competitions for German giants Borussia Dortmund this season and is at the top of many European Clubs’ wish list.
Bellingham also scored England’s first goal of the tournament and assisted the opening goal against Senegal; he will most certainly be one of the first name’s on the team sheet in 2026.
Declan Rice is someone who sometimes does not get enough credit in this England team. His work rate is second to none, he is sharp when you need him to burst forward or back and has the ability to make strong defensive tackles.
He can be described as the backbone in this England midfield and will be a very important player come 2026 giving the likelihood that Jordan Henderson is unlikely to be around.
Another Arsenal man who has been an asset in their excellent league form this season. With 4 clean sheets and only conceding 10 goals in 14 appearances, White has been a rock in the Arsenal back line so far this season.
Although he hasn’t had a chance to prove himself fully under Southgate just yet due to his enforced absence, his time will come in 2026 with much of the England defensive contingent ageing.
That’s five of the current England team that are out in Qatar at the moment. However, what about the players who will be coming through? Here are three players who may break into the England team in the next 4 years.
The former Chelsea man, currently at AC Milan was unlucky to miss out on mselection for Qatar having played previously under Southgate in the Nations League. He has proved a key player in the AC Milan side this season with 5 clean sheets and 18 goals conceded in 20 appearances (all competitions) for the Serie A team.
As mentioned, with the England defensive contingent ageing, he could certainly prove a fitting replacement for the likes of Maguire and Stones alongside Ben White in 2026.
Currently on loan at Stoke City from Manchester City, the son of Rory Delap, Liam is yet to make an impact in the Championship having only scored one goal. However, at only 19 years old he has already proved himself as a striker at youth level breaking the Premier League 2 scoring record with 24 goals in 20 games in the 2020/21 season.
Delap has also made a mark in front of Pep Guardiola scoring in a 2-1 win over Bournemouth on his first team debut in the Carabao Cup back in 2020. Delap will certainly be on the England team radar in 2026, having already scored once for the under 20 team this season.
Also 19 years of age, Patino is currently on loan at Blackpool from Arsenal. He has 2 goals and 2 assists in all competitions for The Tangerines so far this season in 15 league appearances. He has also made an impact in the Arsenal first team coming off the bench to score on his debut in a 5-1 win over Sunderland last season in the Carabao Cup. Similarly to Delap, Patino has also scored for England’s under 20 team this season so it is likely he will be a regular in the first team in the years to come.
So it is no doubt that the future of the England team is bright as the current crop of players continue to set a high standard to be exceeded by the younger players coming through. It still remains to be seen how much further England will progress in Qatar, whether Southgate will still be in charge in North America or even whether any of the players mentioned will still stand in good stead to be picked in 2026.
But one thing that is clear is the fact that there is a huge showcase of talent coming through academies across England and we should all be excited.
Join us at Wembley in our ICON facility for England v Ukraine, the team’s first home match after the World Cup in Qatar.
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