So who should get the nod when England kick-off against Croatia at Wembley on June 13?
We asked our writers to pick their XI to start the first game and who they think should make the England squad.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell; Rice, J. Henderson, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Foden.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell are, on form, England’s most talented full-backs, so beat Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw, while Phil Foden offers something different to Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford up front.
Jordan Pickford’s ability with his feet gives him the nod over Nick Pope, while Jordan Henderson is more experienced than Kalvin Phillips.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Pickford, Pope, D. Henderson Defenders: Walker Trippier Alexander-Arnold Chilwell Shaw Stones Maguire Mings Midfielders: J.Henderson, Rice, Phillips, Mount, Foden Forwards: Grealish, Saka, Rashford, Sancho, Sterling, Kane, Calvert-Lewin.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Mount, Rice, Phillips; Sterling, Kane, Rashford.
I would have given Dean Henderson chance to stake his claim in this international break – but now the only choice is Jordan Pickford due to his ability with his feet.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right back in the country, but it feels like Kyle Walker is now the first choice. The midfield arguably picks itself and up front I’m going with the most experienced three.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Pickford, Pope, D. Henderson Defenders: Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Maguire, Stones, Coady, Mings, Shaw, Chilwell Midfielders: Rice, Phillips, Ward-Prowse, Mount, Henderson, Grealish Forwards: Kane, Rashford, Sterling, Sancho, Foden, Calvert-Lewin.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pope; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell; Mount, Rice, Foden; Sterling, Kane, Rashford.
Nick Pope’s form this season means he gets the nod in goal. The defence largely picks itself, although Luke Shaw could get the nod over Ben Chilwell if he continues his fine form.
In midfield, a fully-fit Jordan Henderson would play, but he will likely be a bit short on minutes and Declan Rice and Mason Mount work well together. Going forward, Jack Grealish or Jadon Sancho are unlucky to miss out and could make a late charge.
Squad: Goalkeepers: D. Henderson, Pickford, Pope Defenders: Chilwell, James, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Stones, Walker. Midfielders: Bellingham, Henderson, Mount, Rice, Phillips Forwards: Calvert-Lewin, Foden, Grealish, Kane, Rashford, Saka, Sancho, Sterling.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Ward-Prowse, Mount; Foden, Sterling, Kane.
Jordan Pickford’s ability with the ball at his feet gets him in my XI, while the two centre-backs pick themselves. If the back four is the way to go then Bukayo Saka unfortunately misses the cut.
Declan Rice and Mason Mount are nailed on starters in midfield, while the tireless James Ward-Prowse gets in for his ability over a set piece. Corners were one of England’s most potent weapons at the World Cup two years ago and could prove decisive again, so it pays to have the Premier League’s best over them.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Pickford, Pope, D. Henderson Defenders: Waker, James, Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Mings, Shaw, Chilwell Midfielders: Rice, Ward-Prowse, Henderson, Mount, Grealish, Foden Forwards: Sterling, Sancho, Rashford, Kane, Calvert-Lewin, Ings.
Starting XI (4-3-3): Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Mount; Foden, Kane, Sterling.
The shift to a back four should suit the best right-back in Europe in Alexander-Arnold – which makes it all the more frustrating that he wasn’t involved in this camp. Presuming Henderson is back, he comes in for Phillips but concerns over his fitness mean Bellingham is probably also worth a seat on the bus/plane.
I’d start with the guile of Foden in the group stage but against the best sides in the knockout stages I still think a Rashford-Kane-Sterling front three is England’s best chance of success.
In terms of the squad, it came down to a decision between Saka and a fourth centre-back. The system Southgate plans to deploy will probably make that call for him.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Pickford, Pope, Henderson Defenders: Maguire, Stones, Mings, Walker, Alexander-Arnold, Shaw, Chilwell. Midfielders: Rice, Henderson, Phillips, Bellingham, Mount, Foden Forwards: Grealish, Saka, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho, Kane, Calvert-Lewin.
This piece was originally published on April 1.