England: Our Team to Face Tunisia

The World Cup is coming

The four year wait is almost over, with England now just days away from their World Cup opener against Tunisia. The Three Lions will be pleased with the draw that they have, with them looking in a very strong position to secure qualification through into the first knockout round. Back in Brazil 2014 they finished rock bottom of their group and a repeat of that would be an absolute disaster.

Gareth Southgate has selected a squad that is virtually un-recognisable from the one that flopped in South America, with it one of the youngest on display at this summers finals. That brings up several unanswered questions, with many of them revolving around who will start on match day one. Southgate has remained tight-lipped - publicly at least - over who will feature against Tunisia and it's going to be interesting to see who makes the cut.

But we on the other hand have already selected who we believe should be representing the Three Lions in Volgograd on Monday. There's some tough calls to be made in several areas but we've managed to pick an XI which we think would comfortably come out on top against the side ranked 21st in the FIFA World Rankings - so read below and tweet your thoughts to us @FootyAccums on who you think should start!

Goalkeeper

Usually going into the World Cup there's a standout goalkeeper or preferred number 1 - but this year is different. Joe Hart played all but one of England's games during qualification but a lack of playing time for West Ham and drop in form means he's failed to make the 23 man squad - with Nick Pope, Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford the preferred options.

All three have impressed for their respective clubs this season but Southgate looks to be swaying towards Everton man Pickford - who has made some big strides over the last twelve months. The 24 year-old shot onto the scene with his boyhood club Sunderland and has continued to improve since making his big money move to Merseyside last summer. He has a wealth of experience representing England from U16 level right through to the U21's and we think he's the right man for the job - with his technical ability, distribution and presence in the penalty area better than that of his rivals for the jersey.

MISSING OUT: Nick Pope & Jack Butland

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Wing-Backs

Another thing that we agree on with Southgate is his preferred five at the back system. Whilst giving Pickford more protection it also allows the wing backs to bomb on support the attackers - making them two of the most important positions on the pitch. For this formation to work you need specialists in these spots and England are blessed with some talented players to boot.

At right wing back we're going for Tottenham man Kieran Trippier ahead of Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold - who's been superb this season. The 27 year-old may only have seven caps to his name during his short international career but he's proven at club level he's an excellent player. He's a very capable defender but what really impresses us is what he can do going forward, with his ability to pick out a man from both set pieces and open play a major weapon in Englands armoury - music to the ears of Harry Kane & co.

MISSING OUT: Trent Alexander-Arnold

On the left side there's a little more competition, with Ashley Young and Danny Rose battling it out to be named in Southgate's starting XI. Young has enjoyed a renaissance with Manchester United moving further back down the pitch, but as previously mentioned you need specialists in these positions so we're going for Danny Rose. Another Tottenham man, he knows this system inside out like Trippier and when he's on top form there aren't many better in European football. His technical ability isn't that of Trippier's, but he makes up for it with his physicality and defensive solidity.

MISSING OUT: Ashley Young

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Centre Backs

In the heart of defence there's a fair bit of competition too, with essentially five players slogging it out for three positions. First up we're going for Kyle Walker, who makes the trip to Russia following an immensely successful season with Manchester City. The 28 year-old has established himself as one of the finest attacking full-backs in world football since moving to the north west, but for England he has a slightly different role. Southgate has reverted him to part of his three-man defence and so far it's been pretty successful. Walker's pace and power makes him a nightmare for opposing attackers and his ability to play out from the back has improved so much since working under Pep Guardiola, meaning he suits this system well.

Joining Walker at the back is his City teammate John Stones, who's been a mainstay in this England side for sometime now. He started both of England's warm-up friendlies and is clearly someone who's trusted by Gareth Southgate. With 26 caps to his name, he's one of the more experienced members of the defence and he will be key to England's hopes of progressing through the tournament.

The final member of our defensive trio comes in the form of Harry Maguire, who's enjoyed a magnificent season with Leicester City. There were a few eyebrows raised when the Foxes shelled out £17m for his services from relegated Hull twelve months ago but that now looks like a bargain. Confident in possession, good in the air and poweful - Maguire has all the attributes to be a massive success in Russia and we can see him enhancing his growing reputation in the game.

MISSING OUT: Phil Jones & Gary Cahill.

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Midfield

England's 5-3-2 system requires a midfield with a high work rate and good technical ability, so it's vitally important that Southgate gets this area of the pitch right. There's a few contenders for these spots and the two warm up games versus Nigeria and Costa Rica have certainly given him plenty to think about - but we have a pretty clear idea of who we think should start.

The sitter of the midfield two was a tough one to call, with Eric Dier, Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson all available and in good form following successful campaigns with their clubs. All three offer different attributes for the role but with this being an inexperienced side, we're opting for the Liverpool man. Jordan Henderson has 39 caps to his name and has matured a lot over the last few years at Anfield - with the highlight of his time coming when he captained them to the Champions League final a few weeks ago. He will keep things simple in the middle but he boasts an impressive engine which will see him cover a lot of ground, allowing his partner to bomb on and support the attackers.

We're expecting Southgate to be pragmatic in his team selection and play both of Dier & Henderson. But we'd like to see Dele Alli selected to play along side the Liverpool man, with the 22 year-old another preferred option of Southgate. He's used to playing slightly further forward, but his technical ability means he could do a job in a midfield two. He recorded 10 assists in the Premier League last season for Tottenham and dropping down the pitch means that we can get in another attacker. His experience puts him just ahead of Chelsea man Ruben Loftus-Cheek, despite him looking like a real class act in his four appearances for the Three Lions.

Spearheading our midfield we're going for a man who's been in the headlines over the last few weeks, Raheem Sterling. It seems crazy to think that he's still only 23 years-old but he comes into the World Cup following his best ever season - contributing 36 goals (24G 12A) on his way to winning both the Premier League & Carabao Cup. Sterling has been something of an enigma at international level with him scoring just twice in 38 appearances for the Three Lions but you really feel that this is his time to shine. It's already his third major tournament and with all the negativity surrounding him, he'll be determined to silence his critics.

MISSING OUT: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eric Dier, Fabian Delph & Jesse Lingard.

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Attack

This is the final part of our side and we've gone for a real exciting partnership which hopefully will give us some success in Russia! Gareth Southgate has called up four recognised strikers for the World Cup but following the two friendlies against Nigeria & Costa Rica - we've settled on our two preferred options.

First up is the skipper and one of the first names on the team sheet, Harry Kane. The 24 year-old continues to improve season-on-season and he's proving to everyone that he belongs in that 'world class' bracket. Another unbelievable season for Tottenham which saw him net 41 goals in all competitions makes him one of the deadliest strikers on the planet. England's success this summer largely depend on his performance so he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. This is his second major tournament after struggling at the 2016 European Championships and with Wayne Rooney now out of the international picture, the onus is really on him to drive this England side.

Joining up at the top end of the pitch is Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford. The 20 year-old has struggled for regular game time for his club side this season but he's still up there with the finest young players in European football. His pace, directness and eye for goal makes him a real threat and he's someone who could really make a huge statement out in Russia. He was a 50/50 to start before the warm-up friendlies but his performance and goal against Costa Rica really grabbed everyone's attention and we think if he gets to start alongside Kane, he will be a massive threat.

MISSING OUT: Danny Welbeck & Jamie Vardy

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