Gareth Southgate’s England are heading into World Cup 2018 on the back of a group-topping, unbeaten qualification campaign. But they face two big tests of their credentials this week – facing WC holders Germany, and five-time winners Brazil.
Among the familiar names in the Three Lions’ squad are five uncapped players looking to make a case for their inclusion next summer.
An eye-catching display against either of these sides would be the perfect way for any of this up-and-coming fivesome to boost their hopes of making the plane to Russia. So, what can we expect from them?
GK: Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Sunderland may have endured a woeful campaign en route to Premier League relegation last term, but Pickford was their one shining light. An outstanding shot stopper with superb distribution, his continued rise seemed assured Everton came knocking in the summer.
With a new backline in front of him at Goodison Park, the Washington-born stopper hasn’t yet replicated the form which made him a fan favourite on Wearside.
But having frustrated some of the Premier League’s top finishers last term, facing the likes of Neymar or Thomas Muller could well bring out the best in Pickford if he features.
RB: Joe Gomez (Liverpool)
The Reds defender may have described his inclusion as a “surprise”, but it wasn’t for us. He’s produced one classy display after another for them this term, including a virtuoso performance at Arsenal, where the youngster set up the opener in a 4-0 win.
Despite having only turned 20-years-old in May, Gomez already has a fair bit of first-team football under his belt. That’s testament to the youngster’s prodigious talent. Whether or not he makes his debut in the coming days, there’s little doubt the former Charlton Athletic ace has a bright future for the Three Lions.
DM: Jack Cork (Burnley)
Injuries to England regulars have played a part in the Clarets man getting his first call-up, but the 28-year-old is far from a last resort for Southgate. The 28-year-old is enjoying arguably the best form of his career under Sean Dyche, and has played a key role in the Lancashire club’s early-season success.
Perhaps his best display came as Burnley won 3-2 at Stamford Bridge earlier this term, but he’s also helped the club to positive results away at Everton, Liverpool and Southampton.
A steady hand who hasn’t missed a minute of their league campaign, his cool head and clean tackling could well prove useful if England are leading against either of their illustrious opponents.
CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Crystal Palace)
As with Pickford at Sunderland, the midfielder is currently the bright spark in a struggling Palace side. But while he’s not quite got the Eagles soaring, the youngster’s electric pace and imaginative passing make him perhaps the most exciting of the bunch.
Having managed seven goals and four assists in his 17 games for the England Under-21 side, he’s already outclassed some of the top international sides as that youth level. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see him make a big impact against either of Die Mannschaft or Canarinho.
CF: Tammy Abraham (Swansea City)
The 20-year-old was the Championship’s breakout star last season, finishing the season as joint-second top scorer on 23 goals during his loan spell with Bristol City. And the Chelsea man has made the step up to Premier League football with another loan stint this term, at Swansea City.
It’s one he’s handled extremely well, bagging four Prem goals already this term. An absolutely lethal finisher, his energy and eye for goal has frequently made the difference in the latter stages of games.
All Odds and Markets correct as of the date of publication