With the first international break of the season around the corner, Gareth Southgate’s last England squad before the World Cup has raised plenty of eyebrows.
The Three Lions are currently on a four-match winless run, and recorded their biggest defeat on home soil since 1928 in an embarrassing 4-0 loss against Hungary last time out.
Bottom of their Nations League group, England play their final two matches against European Champions Italy at San Siro, before welcoming Germany to Wembley for the first time since England’s 2-1 win in the second round of Euro 2020.
These will be the last two games Southgate has before deciding on his final 26-man squad for the Qatar World Cup by November 13.
Here Sportsmail takes a look at the top 40 players who will be vying for those final seats on the plane to Qatar ahead of their final round of fixtures.
Gareth Southgate announced his squad for the two Nations League fixtures on Thursday
Ivan Toney was called up to the Egnalnd squad for the first time and could win his first cap
1. Harry Kane (non-mover)
England’s best and most important player by a distance, Harry Kane is a certainty to lead the team in their bid for a second World Cup in November.
The Tottenham striker has started the season in fantastic form, with five goals so far from eight games in all competitions, and with 50 goals for his country, Kane could feasibly break Wayne Rooney’s 53-goal record against Italy or Germany.
Harry Kane’s place in the squad is unassailable and he will surely captain the side in Qatar
2. Declan Rice (up one)
Rice’s energy and work rate in the middle of the park make him one of England’s most influential players, and has been an almost permanent fixture in the side since Euro 2020, where he played 539 minutes across seven games.
He missed England’s last outing – the 4-0 hammering by Hungary at Molineux – where his absence was sorely felt, and his club form has only improved as he has become the second name on Southgate’s teamsheet.
A future England captain, and already filling the void at the London Stadium left by Mark Noble, Rice has an experienced head on his shoulders despite being just 23-years-old
Declan Rice was one of England’s most consistent performers at Euro 2022 with 539 minutes
3. Raheem Sterling (up one)
Raheem Sterling moves up one place as England’s most reliable source of attacking threat behind Kane, and is one of Southgate’s leaders in the squad with 77 England caps to his name already.
A move to Chelsea has not impeded the form he has shown at Manchester City in recent years, and with four goals and an assist in eight games at his new club, Sterling has a seat on the plane to Qatar with his name stitched on.
SPORTSMAIL’S PREVIOUS TOP 40
1. Harry Kane
2. Jordan Pickford
3. Declan Rice
4. Raheem Sterling
5. Phil Foden
6. Mason Mount
7. Jordan Henderson
8. Kyle Walker
9. Harry Maguire
10. John Stones
11. Luke Shaw
12. Reece James
13. Bukayo Saka
14. Jack Grealish
15. Ben Chilwell
16. Jude Bellingham
17. Fikayo Tomori
18. Jarrod Bowen
19. Tammy Abraham
20. Aaron Ramsdale
21. Kalvin Phillips
22. Kieran Trippier
23. Conor Coady
24. Nick Pope
25. Trent Alexander-Arnold
26. James Ward-Prowse
27. Ben White
28. Conor Gallagher
29. James Justin
30. Emile Smith Rowe
31. Jadon sancho
32. Marc Guehi
33. Jacob Ramsey
34. Marcus Rashford
35. Sam Johnstone
36. Tyrick Mitchell
37. Tyrone Mings
38. Eric Dier
39. Ollie Watkins
40. James Maddison
4. Phil Foden (up one)
Sterling’s former City team-mate Phil Foden follows him up the rungs, as he adds an established place in the England set up to the impressive achievement of carving out a starting role from amongst the litany of stars at his club.
Foden has seen his credit vastly increased with Southgate as a result of the creative inefficacies of many of his team-mates, and after Covid-19 ended his role in the last batch of Nations League games, he will be keen to show what he can do this month.
5. John Stones (up five)
With a glittering array of talent at his disposal, defence is the one weak-point Southgate will face head-aches over, but the consistency of John Stones at the top level for City will surely do wonders to soothe those pains.
While other England defenders struggle for form, Stones continues to excel at the heart of one of the meanest defences in club football – as things stand there are no English defenders ahead of him in the pecking order.
John Stones scored a thunderous equaliser against Jude Bellingham’s Dortmund in midweek
6. Kyle Walker (up two)
Kyle Walker is the third City player in a row and for good reason, having proven himself to be Southgate’s most reliable right-back for what seems like aeons now.
The glut of talent on England’s right flank is well-documented, and the fact that Walker consistently shrugs aside the challengers of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James and Kieran Trippier proves his important to the side.
He also played at right-centre back in England’s 1-0 loss at Hungary – highlighting his versatility and importance to the Three Lions boss.
7. Jude Bellingham (up nine)
One of two big movers up the rankings is Jude Bellingham, who has gone from strength to strength at Borussia Dortmund, quickly establishing himself as not just one of the leading young players, but one of the best midfielders in Europe.
Whilst he has not yet been handed a regular starting spot for the Three Lions, Bellingham is making it harder for Southgate to come up with reasons not to play him.
An injury to Jordan Henderson and a lack of game time for Kalvin Phillips gives the 18-year-old a perfect opportunity to stamp his authority on the No 8 role – though he is equally good as a No 4 or 10.
Bellingham’s meteoric rise has seen him become one of England’s most important midfielders
8. Jordan Pickford (down six)
Through no fault of his own Jordan Pickford slips down to eighth on the ladder, and will miss the Nations League games through a thigh injury, which, according to reports, he has struggled with for some time.
The Everton stopper is England’s No 1, and a stunning display against Liverpool earlier in September underlined his credentials, with eight saves to keep his side in contention.
He is prone to the odd individual error every now and again, but his penalty shoot-out heroics against Colombia in 2018 will live long in the memory.
Jordan Pickford’s save broke England’s penalty shoot-out curse against Colombia in 2018
9. Mason Mount (down three)
The Chelsea playmaker retains his manager’s confidence and his spot in the top 10, but falls a few places down the pecking order after an inauspicious start to the season.
No goals or assists in eight for an erratic Blues side bereft of form doesn’t make for good reading, but Mount is still the Three Lions’ premier attacking midfielder and is ruthless in dead ball situations.
10. Ben Chilwell (up six)
The English left-back will have feared for his World Cup prospects after the summer arrival of Marc Cucurella at Chelsea, but is perhaps fortunate his competitors have also struggled.
A goal and two assists already this season, in just two starts, mark the left-back is his nation’s top performer in that position – though his place in Qatar could be under threat if Luke Shaw can force himself back into the fold at Manchester United.
11. Harry Maguire (down two)
The United captain has started three games this season, and lost all three of them but has proven time and time again that he is in Southgate’s top two at centre-back.
His lack of pace is balanced by Stones – who in turn sees his less physical presence on the pitch covered by Maguire – and his ability to score from set pieces will prove invaluable.
He could struggle for fitness against both Italy and Germany, but he is sure to feature in some capacity.
Southgate continues to put his faith in Harry Maguire despite three losses from three starts
12. Reece James (non-mover)
The Chelsea right-back will be cursing Walker’s name. He was second favourite in the race to supplant the City defender to Trent Alexander-Arnold, but has developed brilliantly.
Like Walker, he is capable of playing as a right-sided centre-back in a back three, and is another player with a wand of a right foot from dead ball situations.
He won’t start both games, but he will come off the bench to put ball after ball into the danger area.
13. Bukayo Saka (non-mover)
Has always impressed in an England shirt, and showed maturity far beyond his years in stepping up to take that fateful penalty.
Arsenal’s star player, and another capable of playing in a wide range of positions form left-back to right-wing, Bukayo Saka is kept out of the top 10 by the brilliance of Sterling and Foden.
The Three Lions boss has put his faith in the 21-year-old time and time again, and that will not change in the upcoming fixtures.
Bukayo Saka is in line to win his 19th cap for England with the versatile forward still just 21
14. Aaron Ramsdale (up six)
Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale is most likely to deputise for the injured Pickford against Italy and Germany, and yet another impressive run of games for Arsenal has set him out as the one pushing the Everton goalkeeper hardest for his place.
Ramsdale struggled in his last appearance for the Three Lions, with a poor showing in the 4-0 loss to Hungary, but has proven himself capable of some truly fantastic saves. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, too.
15. Jack Grealish (down one)
There is no denying Jack Grealish’s star quality, but his form has been inconsistent in Pep Guardiola’s rigid tiki-taka structure which can at times limit a maverick like Grealish’s ability to run freely on the ball.
Devastating off the bench against Germany at Wembley two years ago, it looks like Grealish will likely play a similar role this time round, too.
16. Jordan Henderson (down nine)
Jordan Henderson has been a fine servant for his country, but looks to be losing his place to those more junior to him of late, with Rice, Bellingham and at time Kalvin Phillips preferred.
However Southgate values his leadership and inexhaustible willingness to do the dirty work well.
An injury will keep him out of contention likely until the end of September, but he is definitely an important part of the Three Lions squad.
England will be without Jordan Henderson’s experience against Italy and Germany after injury
17. Tammy Abraham (up two)
There is probably not a player in the world that you could make a compelling case to start over Harry Kane, but Tammy Abraham has not let that stop him continue to improve his own game under Jose Mourinho.
But despite 29 goals in 60 for his club, Abraham has struggled to translate that into meaningful contributions for England when called upon, and his three goals have come against San Marino, Andorra and Montenegro.
Still England’s best back-up option to the Spurs captain, but still needs to show that he can be a suitable deputy to Kane if crisis should strike.
18. Luke Shaw (down eight)
Much like his club captain, Luke Shaw will not quite be sure how he scraped into Southgate’s 28-man squad to face Italy and Germany, and will know he needs to seize the opportunity with both hands, and probably both feet.
Having scored that early goal against Italy in the Euro 2020 final, he was left out in the cold in Southgate’s most recent squad, and perhaps earns a recall due to the harsh realities that England faced without a natural left-sided defender.
Despite losing his place in the Manchester United side Luke Shaw keeps his place in the squad
19. Eric Dier (up 19)
Nobody has seen their stock increase as much as Eric Dier has, after a brilliant start to the 2022-23 season for Spurs sees him back in the fold under Southgate.
Dier will surely feature against one of Italy and Germany, and with the England boss utilising both a back three and a back four in the past four games, Dier could even start both games alongside Stones and either Maguire or Walker.
It has been almost two years since the Spurs defender last played for the Three Lions, against Iceland in November 2020.
Defender Eric Dier returns to the fold after a brilliant start to Tottenham’s 2022-23 campaign
20. Kieran Trippier (up two)
Southgate’s favourite temporary fix, the England manager thinks so highly of Kieran Trippier that he has at times preferred to play him ahead of an actual left-back, so highly is he regarded by the Three Lions boss.
He has added leadership to his game, having impressed as Newcastle skipper, and his free-kick taking abilities are the stuff of legend amongst England fans.
Whilst he is unlikely to start he is almost definitely going to be in Southgate’s plans for Qatar, injury permitting.
21. Kalvin Phillips (non-mover)
A big-money move to Manchester City in the summer was meant to propel Kalvin Phillips to the next level, but the midfielder has not quite lived up to the hype in the sky blue shirt as yet.
There is evident talent, and like Rice, an inexhaustible supply of running inside the midfielder which we know is one of the key attributes for Southgate.
The Three Lions manager won’t be perturbed by a lack of game time for his player, as he has seen more than enough of him in the past two years to know that he trusts him to do a job in midfield.
22. Conor Coady (up one)
Alongside Dier, Conor Coady completes Southgate’s likely second-choice pairing at the heart of the defence.
He has had to move out on loan to Everton for game time, but retains his spot in the side after his role in England’s 1-0 loss in Hungary.
Southgate has spoken at length about Coady’s leadership and the role he plays in the squad.
Conor Coady has kept his place in the England squad despite having to move for game times
23. Fikayo Tomori (down six)
England’s other representative in Serie A, Fikayo Tomori has failed to break into the Three Lions set up despite a solid career in Milan, with two clean sheets this season.
Was solid from the start in summer’s 0-0 draw with Italy, but has not shown Southgate why he deserves to add to his three caps in the next round of games.
24. Nick Pope (non-mover)
Nick Pope was relegated with Burnley – although he was perhaps the only player to come out of that campaign with his stock still intact – and has slotted in seamlessly at Newcastle as part of Eddie Howe’s seismic turnaround.
He has long been in Southgate’s squads, but has never stamped a claim on the No 1 shirt, and has seen his position fall to Ramsdale in the last two years.
25. Trent Alexander-Arnold (non-mover)
Probably the best all-round full-back of his generation – if not in the world – Trent Alexander-Arnold has a frustrating ability to not show what he can do for England when called upon.
He has been deployed by Southgate in central midfield in the past, as he is so talented with the ball at his feet, but inconsistency has limited his England career and seen him fall behind James in the fight for Walker’s scraps.
Shocking defensive displays against both Man United and Napoli, where he was seen on both occasions to seemingly stop running entirely, will not have helped his cause.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled to produce his Liverpool form for England in the past
26. Jarrod Bowen (down eight)
West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen was tipped to make the World Cup squad last year, and at just 26 on this list his position in the running is very precarious.
A start against Hungary away was followed by three substitute appearances this summer without a goal or assist.
The competition for a wide spot in the side is too strong for him to be considered a likely starter.
27. Ivan Toney (new entry)
Ivan Toney is set for his first England cap, having forced his way up the ranks from League One to a possible World Cup spot.
Has been a nuisance for defenders since arriving in the Premier League since promotion with Brentford last season, but will surely not compete with Abraham for the role as Kane’s deputy.
James Ward-Prowse makes Southgate’s squad after a goal and an assist in 2022-23
28. James Ward-Prowse (down two)
James Ward-Prowse is another player who is perhaps a victim of the plethora of options that Southgate has at his disposal, but is a willing runner and has a keen eye for a pass in the attacking third.
Southgate has always been a fan of the 27-year-old since their time in the Under 21 set-up and his World Cup hopes are far from dashed.
But he will have to prove that he is far from a free-kick merchant after appearing just once in the last round of four fixtures.
29. Marc Guehi (up three)
The Crystal Palace defender took the sixth centre-back role in Southgate’s defence-heavy squad to face Italy and Germany, but is surely too far down the pecking order to trouble his rivals for a seat on the plane to Qatar.
Guehi showed promise on debut against Switzerland but had a less than enjoyable second appearance against Hungary, in which his defensive frailties were ultimately exposed.
30. Dean Henderson (new entry)
The fourth goalkeeper in a long train of talent, Dean Henderson will need several injuries higher up the order to see him make the Qatar squad, but he will be pleased with how quickly he returned to the fold after a few starts for Nottingham Forest.
The 25-year-old has just one clean sheet to his name thus far having conceded 14 goals in just six games.
Dean Henderson has his work cut out trying to dislodge Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope
31. Marcus Rashford (up three)
Marcus Rashford looked to have struggled to come back from that penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final, but after a woeful 2021-22, seems to have found form again.
He picked up a muscle injury prior to the announcement, but probably was just too far from his competitors to make the squad, but is another who Southgate definitely has not given up on.
The Three Lions boss said: ‘He [Rashford] is a player we know well so if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, he of course will be under consideration.’
Both Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho are struggling to force their way back into the fold
32. Jadon Sancho (down one)
Another United forward not to make the cut this time around, Jadon Sancho will hope that he can continue his solid start of three goals in eight games to give Southgate a selection headache come November.
Has struggled to find his way back into the fold after falling down the pecking order at Euro 2020.
33. Ben White (down six)
Probably one of the more surprising omissions from Southgate’s squad, Ben White will be asking himself what he has to do to prove himself.
The Arsenal defender has done himself no disservice ahead of the World Cup after another strong spell at Arsenal to start the campaign, with the Gunners versatile defender still looking to add to his four international appearances for the Three Lions.
Won a shock call-up to Euro 2020 after injury claimed Alexander-Arnold just before the tournament, but has his work cut out to force his way into a World Cup team in his own right.
Ben White (pictured) misses out despite a starring role for Premier League leaders Arsenal
34. Conor Gallagher (down six)
It would be easy to blame the stalling of his rapidly blossoming England career on a lack of game time under Thomas Tuchel this season, but he looked naive and inexperienced in the 4-0 defeat Hungary.
Gallagher, who has four senior caps, has returned to the England Under-21s squad as the Young Lions start the countdown to Euro 2023.
Conor Gallagher returns to the England Under 21 set up after missing out on the senior squad
35. James Justin (down six)
The Leicester defender made his debut for the Three Lions in a poor 45-minute display in the 1-0 loss to Hungary, having done brilliantly to return from a year-long cruciate ligament rupture.
A poor start to the Premier League season with the Foxes winless from six games has damaged his stature in the squad and he will play no further role in the Nations League when it returns at the end of September.
36. Tyrick Mitchell (non-mover)
Despite starting 2022 as one of Southgate’s key options at left-back, and impressing in his first start against Ivory Coast, Tyrick Mitchell’s solid if not spectacular performances for Crystal Palace see him still far from the World Cup squad.
Shaw and Chilwell are preferred on the left-flank despite not playing regularly, with Saka, Trippier and even James ahead of him in the pecking order.
37. Tyrone Mings (non-mover)
Losing your club captaincy is never going to persuade a manager to pick you for the biggest international competition in the world, and just one clean sheets at the heart of the Aston Vila defence is not enough to convince Southgate he deserves a recall.
The defender has been a reliable pick whenever called upon for international duty by boss Southgate.
Tyrone Mings was stripped of the Aston Villa captaincy by Steven Gerrard this season
38. Harvey Elliott (new entry)
Harvey Elliot was never a name on the tip of people’s tongues in the conversation for the Qatar World Cup, but injuries at Liverpool have given him an opportunity to show what he can do on a regular basis.
As a result he would have potentially kept an eye on Southgate’s squad announcement on Thursday, although without any genuine expectation.
Capable as both a wide midfielder and through the middle, Elliot’s rise through the ranks at Liverpool have left many excited at what is to come in four years time.
39. Callum Wilson (new entry)
Callum Wilson has spoken about the possibilities of making Southgate’s World Cup squad in the past, claiming he would need double figures by November, but Toney’s recent ascendancy in Southgate’s opinion makes that a remote possibility.
There is no doubting Wilson’s credentials, with four England caps and a goal to his name already, but competition for places is tough and with an injury record like his there’s no certainty that he would last the tournament.
He is ineligible for the Nations League squad with yet another hamstring injury.
40. Anthony Gordon (new entry)
Anthony Gordon is just the third Everton player on the list, and only just brings up the rear, managing two goals in six games so far at 21 years of age.
A startling rise to acclaim over the past year or so has seen the likes of Chelsea inquiring over his availability, and with credentials like those it won’t be long until he is a feature for this England side.
2022 is maybe a year or two too soon for Gordon, but much like Merseyside rival Elliott, his is a name that we will surely be reading for years to come.
Everton attacker Anthony Gordon is a player who will feature for England at future World Cups