It’s the year 2022 and the likes of Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Gary Cahill are nowhere to be seen and Ronaldo’s hung up his boots for both club and country. But who will take their place?
AFEFootballNews takes a closer look at how some of the biggest national teams could line up in five years time, with their 23 man squads.
*** Please note that I obviously can’t predict the actual future so won’t be able to guess names of future players, but will be able to pick squads made up of players who have already played for their senior clubs and national teams or under 21 sides. ***
In other words, it’s just a bit of fun in a made-up fantasy land lads!
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford.
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Calum Chambers, Reece Oxford, Rob Holding, Dominic Iorfa, Luke Shaw, Ryan Sessegnon, John Stones.
Midfielders: Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, James Ward-Prowse, Dele Alli, Tom Davies, Demarai Gray, Jordon Ibe and Will Hughes.
Strikers: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Ademola Lookman, Jonathan Leko and Tammy Abraham.
Formation: Classic 4-3-3.
England head into World Cup 2022 in Qatar with a host of new names in their squad.
Jack Butland is the regular starter in goal after Joe Hart’s career spiralled out of control, following his move abroad. Jordan Pickford provides decent competition for the number one spot however.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is now the starting right-back for Liverpool, also starts for the Three Lions, alongside the strong and commanding Reece Oxford and Rob Holding, who has made a name for himself at Arsenal. Speedy left back Ryan Sessegnon completes the back four.
Another man who’s left Arsenal, Jack Wilshere, has improved his game since joining AC Milan and has become a solid starter for his country, in a box-to-box position. Dele Alli is now one of the world’s best players and at 25 years old he’s in his prime and still has a lot to give. James Ward-Prowse starts alongside him in an attacking midfield role, with Wilshere in behind them.
Up front, England possess a deadly trio. 28 year old Harry Kane has truly proven that he’s not just a one season wonder after all and after a stint at Manchester United, he’s now at Bayern Munich, who have been lacking a decent striker, since Lewandowski left them. Up top alongside him is Marcus Rashford, who partnered Kane at United and has now become one of the Premier League’s finest strikers. Finally, there is 24-year-old hitman Tammy Abraham, who offers something different to the other two up front with his physical stature and aerial presence.
Once again, they head into a major tournament as one of the favourites, but with a slight lack of depth in their squad, an injury could hinder their chances.
Goalkeepers: Danny Ward and Adam Davies.
Defenders: Adam Henley, Ethan Ampadu, Declan John, Regan Poole, Jazz Richards, Adam Matthews and Dominic Smith.
Midfielders: Ben Woodburn, Aaron Ramsey, Harry Wilson, Joe Allen, George Williams, Johnny Williams, Emyr Huws, Wes Burns, Daniel James and Lloyd Isgrove.
Strikers: Gareth Bale, Tom Lawrence, Tyler Roberts and Tom Bradshaw.
Formation: Classic 4-4-2.
Wales have narrowly missed out on qualification to the 2022 World Cup.
Danny Ward is their starting Goalkeeper and looked shaky at times, perhaps down to the fact that he is not number one his current club, Championship side, Derby County.
At right back is the ever reliable Adam Matthews, who has filled the role well since the retirement of Wales’ highest capped player, Chris Gunter. In the heart of defence is 22-year-old Ethan Ampadu, who was recently signed by Arsenal and has impressed there. Alongside him is Manchester United’s Regan Poole, who is also a decent centre back. Completing the defence at left back is Cardiff’s Declan John.
The midfield is pretty strong. Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson are out on the wings and offer great width and creative spark. Veterans, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, provide experience and leadership in the centre of the park.
Up front is another veteran, 32-year-old talisman Gareth Bale, who is the country’s top scorer with 44 goals. His partner in crime is Tyler Roberts, who’s been tearing it up in the Championship with Wolves.
They may have failed to qualify this time around, but this team still has a lot to give on the international scene.
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola, Loic Badiashile and Alban Lafont.
Defenders: Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma, Aymeric Laporte, Layvin Kurzawa, Djibril Sidibe, Samuel Umiti, Presnel Kimpembe, Issa Diop.
Midfielders: Kingsley Coman, N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Ousmane Dembele, Adrien Rabiot, Corentin Tolisso, Thomas Lemar.
Strikers: Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette.
By far the best national team in the world, France are firm favourites to win the World Cup.
Talented goalkeeper Alban Lafont starts in net after becoming one of the worlds best, probably second only to Italy’s Donnarumma.
A back three of Varane, Laporte and Umtiti is a truly formidable one, keeping the most clean sheets in qualifying.
30-year-old N’Golo Kante starts in the defensive midfield position, following a season of still going strong at Chelsea. Ahead of him is United’s Paul Pogba and Arsenal’s Adrien Rabiot. Out on the wings are the rapid and skilful Kingsley Coman and Ousmane Dembele.
Up front, Les Bleus have the worlds best striker at their disposal in Kylian Mbappe, who was recently signed by Barcelona for just over £200 million. Partnering him is another deadly striker, Alexander Lacazette who has become something of a legend at Arsenal.
Brilliant in qualifying, it would almost be a shock if France don’t go on to win the World Cup this year. Of course the adverse weather in Qatar will be a challenge, but they have a squad depth like no other nation have.
Goalkeepers: Jeroen Zoet and Joel Drommel.
Defenders: Terrence Kongolo, Jairo Riedewald, Jeremiah St. Juste, Jetro Willems, Stefan De Vrij, Virgil Van Dijk, Kenny Tete, Karim Rekik and Kevin Diks.
Midfielders: Memphis Depay, Tonny Vilhena, Riechedly Bazoer, Jorrit Hendrix, Davy Klaassen, Daley Sinkgraven, Bart Ramselaar and Steven Bergwijn.
Strikers: Richairo Zivkovic, Vincent Janssen, Jurgen Locadia and Justin Kluivert.
The Dutch have started a huge transformation process since the likes of Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder retired.
In goal is Jeroen Zoet, who’s a fairly reliable shot stopper. The defence is a strong one, made up of Kevin Diks (right back), Jairo Riedewald and Virgil van Dijk (centre back’s) and Jetro Willems (left back).
The midfield is just as talented too. Tonny Vilhena plays the defensive role whilst Davy Klaasen and Riechedly Bazoer provide the creative spark. Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn sit just behind the lone striker, adding a real attacking threat to the side.
Justin Kluivert, son of Dutch legend Patrick, plays up front on his own as he’s proven that he is good enough to do so since moving to Juventus.
Strong in defence and midfield, the Dutch look as though they may finally be building a decent looking side again, following a tough few years of transformation.
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes and Bruno Varela.
Defenders: Joao Cancelo, Nelson Semedo, Ruben Semedo, Raphael Guerreiro, Edgar Ie, Tobias Figueiredo and Fernando Fonseca.
Midfielders: Diogo Jota, Renato Sanches, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes, Joao Mario, William Carvalho, Bernardo Silva, Gelson Martins, Bruma and Goncalo Guedes.
Strikers: Andre Silva, Rafa Silva, Ricardo Horta and Goncalo Paciencia.
Much like the Dutch side, the Portuguese have seen a whole host of older players retire recently, such as Pepe, Bruno Alves, Joao Moutinho and of course Cristiano Ronaldo. The good news is that, just like Holland again, they have a fantastic set of new generation players to replace them.
The experienced Anthony Lopes plays in goal, whilst the rapid Nelson Semedo plays at right back. The powerful Ruben Semedo (no relation to Nelson) plays at centre back alongside Edgar Ie. One of the world’s best full-backs, Raphael Guerreiro completes the back four.
The midfield is packed with talent. Ruben Neves and William Carvalho play in the defensive midfield positions as they are both fantastic ball winners. Ahead of them is arguably the best player in the world right now; Real Madrid’s Renato Sanches who provides an excellent attacking midfield presence, scoring long range goals and setting up team-mates with through balls. He also has the rare quality of being good in defensive positions too, so he’s a very versatile player. A truly solid midfield.
Up front, either side of the striker are gifted wingers, Goncalo Guedes (right) and Bernardo Silva (left). Lethal Striker, Andre Silva of Barcelona seems to be nearly always on the end of the crosses that they put into the box and so provides a deadly option inside the penalty area.
They may just ruffle a few feathers at this tournament. Remember Euro 2016 when they were unfancied? Exactly.
Goalkeepers: Marc Andre Ter-Stegen and Timon Wellenreuther.
Defenders: Joshua Kimmich, Nicklas Sule, Jonathan Tah, Shkodran Mustafi, Matthias Ginter, Mitchell Weiser, Lucas Klostermann and Benjamin Henrichs.
Midfielders: Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Emre Can, Julian Brandt, Julian Weigl, Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka, Max Meyer, Mario Gotze, Mahmoud Dahoud.
Strikers: Kevin Volland, Timo Werner and Davie Selke.
The Germans are seen as the underdogs for this tournament. Their squad may not be as good as it used to be, but they still pack a punch.
Ter-Stegen has cemented his place in goal down ever since Manuel Neuer retired from international duty. The versatile Joshua Kimmich of Bayern Munich starts at right back, whilst Jonathan Tah and Nicklas Sule play in the heart of the defense and left back Benjamin Henrichs completes the defensive set-up.
Emre Can of Bayern Munich and Mahmoud Dahoud of Borussia Dortmund play in the defensive midfield roles, whilst Mario Gotze of Dortmund plays in the attacking position. Either side of him is Manchester City’s Leroy Sane and Leverkusen’s Julain Brandt.
Up top they have Kevin Volland, who has done well since moving to Borussia Dortmund from Bayer Leverkusen.
Quietly fancied by many, the Germans always do relatively well in big tournaments so it would be a surprise to see them not go far in Qatar.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Sergio Rico.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Dani Carvajal, Jorge Mere, Jose Gaya, Inigo Martinez, Adrian Marin and Alex Grimaldo.
Midfielders: Koke, Marco Asensio, Thiago, Isco, Gerard Deulofeu, Saul Niguez, Inaki Williams, Oliver Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal and Sergi Roberto.
Strikers: Alvaro Morata, Paco Alacacer and Borja Mayoral.
Much like the Germans, you can’t rule out the Spanish in big tournaments either.
David De Gea is still going strong in goal for his country after recently making the switch from Manchester United to Real Madrid. Hector Bellerin (Barcelona), Inigo Martinez (Sociedad), Jorge Mere (Bilbao) and Alex Grimaldo (Barcelona) make up the back four in front of him.
Their formidable midfield five of Thiago (Bayern Munich), Koke, Saul (Both Atletico), Marco Asensio and Isco (Both Real Madrid) is up there with France’s, if not one step better. Between them they have everything, vision, tackling, passing and goalscoring abilities. Truly frightening.
Up top, Alvaro Morata, who recently joined AC Milan, is capable of grabbing a goal or two, especially if those behind him are on top form.
Much like in 2010 and 2014, if their midfield is on form, they could go on to dominate this tournament and be crowned champions of the world.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret and Martin Perin.
Defenders: Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani, Matteo Darmian, Davide Calabria, Nicola Murru, Mattia Caldara and Antonio Barreca.
Midfielders: Marco Verratti, Federico Bernardeschi, Stephan El Shaarawy, Simone Verdi, Jorginho, Marco Benassi, Rolando Mandragora, Domenico Berardi and Manuel Locatelli.
Strikers: Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Belotti, Nicola Sansone and Manolo Gabbiadini.
Italy have fallen off the pace in recent years and are a far cry away from their 2006 World Cup winning side, but they are slowly beginning to find their feet again now.
They have world’s best goalkeeper in net in the shape of Gianluigi Donnarumma, who has remained loyal to AC Milan thus far. 31-year-old Matteo Darmian starts at right back as he has done for many a year now, whilst Daniele Rugani and Alessandro Romagnoli play at centre back and Nicola Murru is their left back.
Marco Verratti, one of the world’s best midfielders at this moment in time starts in the defensive midfield position, whilst Manuel Locatelli and Jorginho play just ahead of him. Either side of them are Federico Bernadeschi and Lorenzo Insigne who is truly rapid with the ball at his feet.
Up front they have Andrea Belotti who has established himself as one of the world’s best finishers since moving to Juventus.
Italy have nearly always been the dark horses in these big tournaments, so they’ll be worth keeping an eye on at least. Can they go on to win the tournament, who knows?
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois and Koen Casteels.
Defenders: Jordan Lukaku, Bjorn Engels, Jason Denayer, Laurens De Bock, Thomas Foket, Senna Miangue, Thomas Meunier and Dion Cools.
Midfielders: Eden Hazard, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, Youri Tielemans, Leander Dendoncker, Kevin De Bruyne, Samuel Bastien, Thorgan Hazard and Zakaria Bakkali.
Strikers: Romelu Lukaku, Michu Batshuayi, Siebe Schrijvers, Aaron Leya Iseka and Divock Origi.
Belgium have assembled an exciting squad over the years as more and more top young talent come through their ranks alongside one another.
Thibaut Courtois has become a mainstay in goal, having been his country’s number one for nearly a decade now. Thomas Meunier, Dion Cools, Jason Denayer and Jordan Lukaku are the back four.
Eden Hazard, who is now well and truly a legend at Stamford Bridge, plays out wide, whilst Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is one the opposite flank. Kevin De Bruyne and Youri Tielemans are the midfield pairing in the centre of the park and together they have become one of the most creative partnerships in this day and age, their vision and passing are second to none.
Up front the Belgians have the dynamic duo of Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi, who both know exactly where to be to score the goals needed to win matches.
I don’t know why, but I think Belgium may just be the surprise package in this year’s World Cup. I worry a little about their defence, but the talent that they have in midfield and attack, both on the pitch and off it is quite incredible.
Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Emmanuel Daniel.
Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem, Kenneth Omeruo, William Troost-Ekong, Musa Muhammed, Uche Agbo, Tyronne Ebuehi, Shehu Abdullahi and Kinglsey Madu.
Midfielders: Kelechi Nwakali, Alex Iwobi, Ogenyi Onazi, Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Moses, Noah Bazee, Anderson Esiti and Etebo Oghenekaro.
Strikers: Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success, Moses Simon and Victor Osimhen.
On the surface of things, Nigeria look as though they are heading to this tournament just to make up the numbers, but in actual fact, they are now Africa’s biggest team and do have some very talented stars in their side.
Emmanuel Daniel is their main man between the sticks. Their trio at the back, made up of Omeruo, Awaziem and Troost-Ekong is a truly physical one and they’ll be hard for any striker to get past.
Wilfred Ndidi who has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world during his time at Juventus, plays alongside Anderson Esiti in those holding positions in the middle of the park. Kelechi Nwakali has progressed during his time at Arsenal and he’s likely to start as their attacking midfielder, with his club team mate Alex Iwobi and Noah Bazee playing either side of him.
The two stars playing up front are Kelechi Iheanacho (Inter Milan) and Isaac Success. Iheanacho is a prolific finisher and a speed merchant, while Success lives up to his name too.
They’re not expected to go far, but their crop of talent will at least get the chance to prove their doubters wrong.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath and Bill Hamid.
Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Walker Zimmerman, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga and Keegan Rosenberry.
Midfielders: Gedion Zelalem, Christian Pulisic, Kellyn Acosta, Darlington Nagbe, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Lynden Gooch, Mix Diskerud, Emerson Hyndman and Julian Green.
Strikers: Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes, Rubio Rubin and Juan Agudelo.
Another one of the unfancied countries that could turn out to be the dark horses of the tournament – the USA are hard to write off at times, especially as they coasted through their CONCACAF qualifying group.
The Americans have produced some fine goalkeepers over the years and 28-year-old Ethan Horvath has fitted that mould, cementing his place in the starting eleven for man a year now. Their defence is solid too, with the back three of Matt Miazga, John Brooks and Cameron Carter-Vickers all using their physical presence to dominate defensive battles.
Darlington Nagbe and Emerson Hyndman usually start in the centre of the park, although Gedion Zelalem and Lyndon Gooch are equally as talented. DeAndre Yedlin, despite being a natural defender, often plays out wide for his country due to his rapid turn of pace. Julian Green plays out on the opposite flank.
Up top, the stars and stripes have a useful front three in the form of Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes. They are all very much capable of scoring goals as they have proved in qualifying.
Ranked as the best North American team around at this moment in time, the USA will be looking to claim a few scalps during Qatar 2022.
It’ll be interesting to look back on this article when I’m 28 years old (scary thought) during the 2022 World Cup and see if many or any of these players have made it into their national team’s set-up’s.
Like I said, it’s just a bit of a fun!
Keep reading AFEFootballNews for many more interesting and thought-provoking articles to come over the 2017/18 season!