This month, England plays its first games since losing to France in the World Cup quarterfinals as they begin their qualifying run for Euro 2024.
On March 23, Gareth Southgate’s team travels to Italy before facing Ukraine at home three days later.
On Thursday, the manager announces the difficult selections for his team.
BBC Sport has examined certain selection-related questions the England manager will need to address and whether any surprises are likely.
With a 2-1 loss to France on December 10 in Qatar, England manager Gareth Southgate admitted he felt “conflicted” about continuing to lead the team. Southgate led the Three Lions to the 2018 World Cup semifinals and the Euro 2020 final.
But, the 52-year-old Southgate later declared that he will stay until the conclusion of Euro 2024, which would be held in Germany the following summer.
The most difficult job for England is first, when they play Italy, the top seed who defeated Southgate’s team in the Euro 2020 final, in Naples, and then in the Nations League in September.
In the doubleheader in June against Malta away and North Macedonia at home, Southgate could stick with his tried-and-true players because Ukraine would be coming Wembley the next day on March 26. This would give him more freedom to experiment.
Yet, some players will be anticipating the team announcement with bated breath.
For a call-up, Brentford’s manager supports Toney.
Ivan Toney, a striker for Brentford without a cap, has 16 goals this season, which is two more than Marcus Rashford of Manchester United, who has 14, and five fewer than Harry Kane of Spurs, who has 20.
The 26-year-old Toney was selected for the September Nations League matches against Germany and Italy but did not play in either.
He has pleaded guilty to some of the 262 accusations brought against him for violating Football Association gambling laws, but he is still eligible for selection until the matter is over.
If you look at the performances, I don’t think you can go past him, but I know there are different sorts and it depends on what kind of strikers he [Southgate] wants. Toney deserves to play for England, according to his club manager Thomas Frank.
But Ivan has demonstrated by his performances, goals, and assists—two really nice stats to be high on—that he is Harry [Kane’s] backup.
Jadon Sancho, a winger for Manchester United who was left off the World Cup roster, is another candidate hoping to be selected.
Raheem Sterling of Chelsea missed his team’s 3-1 victory over Leicester on Saturday due to a hamstring injury, while Callum Wilson of Newcastle, who did travel to Qatar, has only scored one goal in 13 games overall since.
Will Southgate remain confident in Maguire?
Harry Maguire, the captain of Manchester United, was frequently questioned by Southgate prior to the World Cup about his inclusion, and the issue is still relevant given that the center-back is having difficulty getting into Premier League games.
Despite playing an important role in England’s starting lineup at the last two major competitions, Maguire, 30, has only started five league games this year.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell of Chelsea will play again for Southgate after missing the World Cup due to injuries.
Three-time England international Fikayo Tomori has been a regular for AC Milan this year. Last week, the Italian team eliminated Tottenham from the Champions League after Tomori performed well.
While 18-year-old Manchester City full-back Rico Lewis has impressed this season and forced his way into Pep Guardiola’s starting lineup, Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi believes Seagulls skipper Lewis Dunk deserves respect on a global scale.
The oldest players in England’s World Cup team are the three 32-year-olds: Manchester City defender Kyle Walker, Newcastle fullback Kieran Trippier, and Liverpool central midfielder Jordan Henderson. Yet, it would be a great surprise if any of them were left out by Southgate.
While Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher of Chelsea have battled to get regular starts under manager Graham Potter, Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips left for Qatar but is still not getting enough playing time for his club.
James Ward-Prowse of Southampton, who was not selected for the World Cup, has subsequently scored six goals for a hapless Saints team at the bottom of the Premier League.
Solly March of Brighton is another player who has been mentioned by his team manager as a potential England call-up, and 19-year-old Harvey Elliott has played in every Premier League game for Liverpool this year.
Emile Smith Rowe, an Arsenal midfielder with three caps, may find the matches against Italy and Ukraine to be too soon given that he has only recently started playing again after missing two months due to a groin injury.