Stones cut out and Alli forgotten… how England's class of 2018 fell

John Stones cut out, penalty hero Jordan Pickford in danger and Dele Alli forgotten… how England’s class of the 2018 World Cup fell away

  • England’s 2018 World Cup starting XI look set to develop for bigger things 
  • However, since that semi-final run a number of their stars have been forgotten
  • John Stones, Ashley Young, Delle Alli and Jesse Lingard have been left behind
  • Instead a new crop with Jadon Sancho, Nick Pope and Ben Chilwell emerged

When Kieran Trippier curled a free-kick into the net in the fifth minute of England’s World Cup semi-final against Croatia a little over two years ago, the pathway seemed set for a maturing team.

A first major final for 52 years seemed likely, and beyond that? Anything seemed possible for players such as Dele Alli, Jordan Pickford, John Stones and Jesse Lingard.

The average age of that side (including 33-year-old left wing-back Ashley Young) was 25. They lost that night in Moscow, of course, but manager Gareth Southgate brought them home optimistic that a foundation for a tilt at the European Championship two years later had been set.

England reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in Russia with a hungry, exciting young squad

However, the likes of John Stones have been left behind while Harry Maguire is under pressure

Instead of the 2018 squad progressing, a fresh crop emerged to challenge for Euro 2021 spots

‘We will emerge from this as a stronger team,’ he said and that has arguably proved to be the case. What he and nobody else expected was that it would be a team with so many different names in it.

In 2018 nobody was thinking much — if anything — about Nick Pope, Ben Chilwell, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden, Harry Winks, Trent-Alexander Arnold or Joe Gomez. And that’s before we introduce names like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harvey Barnes, Jack Grealish and Conor Coady in to the conversation.

For example, the substitutes used against Croatia were Marcus Rashford, Danny Rose, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier. So even though we know how quickly the wheel can turn in football, the evolution of this England team has surprised everybody — including the manager.


JORDAN PICKFORD (Everton): Fighting to keep No 1 shirt after several huge errors at Everton. Since World Cup — Caps: 17

KIERAN TRIPPIER (Atl. Madrid): Swapped Tottenham for Madrid but still a key part of squad. Since WC — Caps: 9 Goals: 0

KYLE WALKER (Man City): Fighting off competition for his place in England’s best-stocked area of pitch. Since WC — Caps: 9 Goals: 0

JOHN STONES (Man City): No call-ups for a year and now far down pecking order at City. Since WC — Caps: 6 Goals: 0

HARRY MAGUIRE (Man Utd): Under pressure for his place after woeful form at United. Since WC — Caps: 14 Goals: 0

ASHLEY YOUNG (Inter Milan): England career ended in Russia. Since WC — Caps: 0 Goals: 0

JORDAN HENDERSON (Liverpool): Provides vital experience after glory-filled run at club level. Since WC — Caps: 11 Goals: 0

JESSE LINGARD (Man Utd): Last cap came in June 2019. Since WC — Caps: 6 Goals: 2

DELE ALLI (Tottenham): Out of set-up for last 18 months. Since WC — Caps: 7 Goals: 0

RAHEEM STERLING (Man City): Found his scoring touch after two goals in his first 45 caps. Since WC — Caps: 14 Goals: 11

HARRY KANE (Tottenham): Captain and first name on the England team-sheet. Since WC — Caps: 17 Goals: 13

‘We were the second youngest team in Russia and the least experienced in terms of caps,’ said Southgate this week. ‘Some of those players were coming towards the end of their careers, players like Gary Cahill and Ashley Young.

‘But there have been players who have found themselves out of their club teams since then and we have subsequently had to evolve.

‘A lot of the players we have invested time and caps in just haven’t been in their club teams recently. John Stones, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabian Delph, Jesse Lingard.

‘These are people who have been in a lot of squads over the last couple of years but it’s very difficult to select them ahead of some others. So that’s where we are.

Southgate says the refresh is largely down to former squad players not being selected by clubs

Tottenham’s Dele Alli has been omitted from Gareth Southgate’s plans for the last 18 months

‘We have always evolved the squad while getting results and the challenge is to keep doing that.

‘This is sport and the unpredictability of it is what drives you.’

The decline in form of players such as Alli, Lingard, Stones and Dier has been surprising. Pickford and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire have endured recent struggles also.

What has been beneficial for Southgate, meanwhile, is that he hasn’t had to cling to players stuck in reverse. The investment in the English academy system over the last 15 years has paid off.

Stars like England captain Harry Kane has remained firm as central parts of the national setup 

The fact there has been a glut of technically gifted and tactically aware young midfielders and forwards is not a coincidence.

All they lack is experience, one of the reasons why two other survivors from Croatia 2018 — Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson — will continue to be front and central of Southgate’s teams moving forward.

‘This week we have 10 of the players who were with us in Russia and they have done a lot of good with us, their clubs and their communities,’ said Southgate.

‘They have also played in a team that has got results. Some of the younger ones haven’t done that yet with England. They still have to prove themselves.’

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