Europe (UEFA)

5 England stars that featured in Euro 2020 final sweating over World Cup place, 23 September 2022, 08:00
England take on the side that beaten them in the Euro 2020 final in Rome on Friday night - with Gareth Southgate using the fixture against Italy to continue his preparations for the World Cup

England take on Italy on Friday night, looking to extinguish the flames from a summer of discontent.

Gareth Southgate has just two games before he names his 26-man squad for the World Cup in Qatar. And the pressure is firmly on the Three Lions boss after a dismal start to their Nations League campaign.

In four games, England failed to score a single goal from open play, losing twice to Hungary, including a shambolic 4-0 reversal at Molineux last time out. That sell-out crowd in the Midlands showered Southgate's side with boos - all a far cry from the unifying impact they had on the nation just 12 months prior.

England made it all the way to the final during that balmy summer in 2021 and were a penalty shootout away from ending 55 years of hurt. Alas, it was more misery from 12 yards as the Azzurri were crowned European champions in front of a heartbroken Wembley.

In just over a year since that dramatic final, a number of England's most regular contributors have endured a dramatic slump in form. So much so, that a number of those that were involved against Italy have been left nervously hoping they earn a spot on the plane.

Ahead of the renewal of rivalries with the Italians, Mirror Football takes a look at five players who featured in the Euro 2020 final that may not even make the squad when Southgate whittles down his options.

Harry Maguire

There is perhaps no better example of a player saving their best for the international stage. Even before his dramatic downturn in form for Manchester United, there was an argument that Maguire in an England shirt was a markedly better player.

Whether that is down to playing in a three, having better midfield players in front of him, or just simply enjoying his football more - Maguire has rarely ever let Southgate down. But if Erik ten Hag continues to leave him on the sidelines, the clamour for his exclusion will only heighten.

"It is not ideal, but we feel they have been, and can be, important players for us. It is not a perfect situation but there is still a lot of football to be played before Qatar," Southgate said about players not turning out for their clubs. At this point it's still difficult to envisage Maguire not making the cut, but his position is already more precarious than anyone would have ever expected.

Luke Shaw

Had things gone differently, Shaw's goal against Italy would have become one of the most iconic images in English sporting history. As it happens, it goes along with Paul Gascoigne's lunge in '96 and Kieran Tripper's free-kick in 2018 as the ultimate 'what if' moments.

A year on, not only is his place in the XI under threat, Mirror Football understands it will be a straight battle between him and Ben Chilwell to make the squad at all.

Like Maguire, Shaw can no longer boast of being a regular at United and with Kieran Trippier above him in the pecking order, his place is in doubt. Former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson suggested that both United players should miss out, if they remain on the sidelines at Old Trafford.

"I think it's difficult for Southgate to pick Maguire and Shaw because if they don't play regularly, it's very difficult to let them play in the national team because it's one thing to train, but it's another to have a regular routine of games. So that's a difficult one," he told BoyleSports.

Kalvin Phillips

Even during the run to the European Championship final, Phillips' place in the England starting XI was a bone of contention. While Declan Rice was a sure-fire starter, the player that started alongside him remained a bone of contention.

A year on, most of that debate has subsided with Jude Bellingham going from strength to strength with Borussia Dortmund. Despite still being a teenager, the ex-Birmingham City star is already placing himself amongst the elite players in his position.

As for Phillips, his progress has been hampered by a number of frustrating injuries. And since moving to Manchester City the former Leeds skipper is another struggling for regular minutes.

To make matters worse, Pep Guardiola has now confirmed Phillips will undergo surgery on his troublesome shoulder, meaning his inclusion in Qatar is literally on a knife edge.

Jadon Sancho

Once a trusted member of Southgate's squad, Sancho went from starter, to fringe player to outcast in just over a year. He came off the bench in defeat to Italy, missing his spot-kick in the shootout.

He then struggled to hit the ground running at United enduring, arguably, the worst season of his senior career. Under Ten Hag he has shown signs he is returning to top form and should he continue with those kinds of performances, he could - and should - warrant a place.

"Jadon Sancho, I thought, warranted a call-up," ex-United defender David May argued. "I don't think he's done anything wrong. Some of his goals have been fantastic.

"It doesn't matter how big the squads are, take him away to give him the experience of being with the first team with England again. I found it a little bit strange that he didn't go."

Marcus Rashford

The similarities between Sancho and his United team-mate are clear. Not only did both players miss from the spot, they both had miserable seasons following it. However, like Sancho, Rashford is looking more like his old self in the early days of this season.

Had he not suffered an injury, Rashford may have been named in the squad for games against Italy and Germany and Southgate revealed the door was still firmly ajar. "There were certain players we wanted to keep involved this time but, that said, it doesn't mean that this is the end for some of the others who aren't involved," he explained.

"Marcus Rashford, for example, has shown some encouraging signs recently. He is a player we know well so, if he can perform at a high level in the next few weeks, of course he will be under consideration."

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