Predicting the England starting XI for Russia 2018

Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool men all feature...

The World Cup in 2014 will be held next summer in Brazil but who will be in the England starting XI come Russia 2018?

GK - Joe Hart (No. 1)

The Manchester City goalkeeper has been having some troubles of late but I’m fairly certain he’ll bounce back even before Brazil, never mind in four-and-a-half year’s time in Russia by which point he’ll be 31, he’ll have the experience and it’s clear he’s already got the quality to be England’s Number 1.

CD - Phil Jones (No. 4)

Manchester United’s young centre-back will likely be the best England defender of his generation – he’ll be 26 by 2018 and I can’t envisage any other player ousting him from a certain spot in the England line-up in Russia. I think he’ll be one of the most complete defenders in the world by then. Probably better than John Terry has been, Rio Ferdinand too, and I expect him to be a future captain, perhaps come 2022 by which point he’ll be 30. There is much more to come for Phil Jones.

CD - Gary Cahill (No. 5)

Chelsea’s centre-back will likely be the most senior member of the back four by then – he’ll be 32 years old and have well over a decade’s worth of Premier League, Champions League and international experience. There is of course Tottenham’s Steven Caulker creeping up on him but I think the Blues man will still have the edge over the Spurs man who’ll still only be 26.

RB - Kyle Walker (No. 2)

However, Caulker’s Tottenham teammate Kyle Walker will surely be the first-choice right-back by 2018. He’s already made huge developments at White Hart Lane and I would expect he’ll edge out Andre Wisdom for the spot. Wisdom will still be a little young for the tournament in Russia – he’ll just turned 25 by then.

LB - Leighton Baines (No. 3)

Ashley Cole will be 33 heading over to Brazil and his understudy for the last decade Everton’s Baines will be 33 heading into the Russia World Cup. Baines is surely the best fullback in England at present and another four years at the top level will ensure he’s a near-certainty for the England spot. I still think Southampton’s Luke Shaw will be behind him in the pecking order.

CM - Jack Wilshere (No. 8)

Another youngster who’s had some teething troubles of late, Arsenal’s hottest midfield prospect will be 26 years old by then and likely one of the best midfielders of his generation in the world. Made in the mould of Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard, I think Wilshere could become one of the most complete midfielders on the planet – if he quits smoking.

CM - Wayne Rooney (C) (No. 10)

Controversially, perhaps, I’m going to put Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney in midfield. Proper midfield. The current Number 10 has seen his role change for his club in the last couple of years and I think, given his natural fitness and the strains of his physique, a role as a midfield playmaker probably beckons.

That Paul Scholes type of role, or the England equivalent of Xavi. I think he’s got the ability and I would fully expect he’ll be captain for club and country by 2018. I think a Rooney and Wilshere partnership in midfield could be England’s answer to Xavi and Andres Iniesta. There are, of course, Jordan Henderson and Jack Rodwell to consider as well as Ross Barkley, Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but for a starting XI I think Rooney has to be in and at 32, I don’t think he’ll have the gas in the tank to play as a second-striker.

LW - Andros Townsend (No. 7)

I predict that Tottenham’s Andros Townsend will be the most dangerous man in the Premier League by 2018. I think that role on the left flank will be his – he’s left-footed and I know he likes to roam inside off the flank but I think his opposite Theo Walcott and him could switch and swap left and right. He’ll be 26 by then and likely at the peak of his powers in that Gareth Bale template for Spurs.

RW - Theo Walcott (No. 12)

This is the pick I’m least certain about – Walcott struggles with injury and productivity season in, season out and the emergence of Townsend, Wilfried Zaha, Raheem Sterling, Tom Ince and his Arsenal teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could see him lose his place in the team or even the squad if he’s not focused.

But, nonetheless, he was the Gunners’ top scorer last term and he is a very dangerous player with his pace and his technique and I think, by 29 years of age, he’ll be in his prime for club and country. He’ll also have potentially three World Cup’s worth of experience behind him and that’ll count overall.

ST - Daniel Sturridge (No. 9)

Up front I can’t see anyone overtaking the Liverpool striker for the next decade. He’s really come into his own at Anfield since his unsettled periods at Chelsea and Manchester City and I believe he’ll improve to become one of the top strikers in the world by 2018 by which time he’ll be 28 years old and be in the midst of the peak years of a striker’s career.

ST - Danny Welbeck (No. 11)

Finally, up front with Sturridge, I think a 27-year-old Danny Welbeck will have surprised a lot of people by 2018. His confidence will grow and he’ll continue to develop for the Red Devils and his chemistry with Wayne Rooney will be a positive factor in his favour. There are also youngsters like Harry Kane, Will Keane and Nick Powell but I think Welbeck will be out of their reach by then.

image: © andrew_j_w

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