Only nine England players in the current Nations League squad were there when Gareth Southgate led the Three Lions to a World Cup semi-final in Russia.
England’s 2018 squad – the youngest in the competition – was branded a foundation for the future, designed to both develop an exciting crop of talent and offer young players invaluable experience at major tournaments.
In the most part, this ideology prevailed. Southgate went on to manufacture an even better finish at Euro 2020 and came just a couple of penalties away from glory against Italy in the final.
However, from the 2018 World Cup squad and standby list, 16 of the players seem destined to miss out on a ticket to Qatar, with two more – Gary Cahill and Jamie Vardy – having announced their international retirement.
Fresh young stars such as Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Mason Mount have rightly won their spots and become Three Lions regulars, handing the unlucky 16 an uphill battle to win Southgate’s favour by November.
Sportsmail have pinned down exactly what went wrong for these players over the last four years…
Harry Kane (left) is unlikely to have Jesse Lingard (right) with him at the 2022 Qatar World Cup
Ahead of the World Cup in 2018, Danny Rose endured an injury-ridden campaign at Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino, plagued with ongoing knee and ligament problems.
Three of his 10 appearances that season came in May, which was enough to earn him a spot in the squad at left-back.
His selection – and Southgate’s decision to play right-footer Ashley Young at wing-back – highlighted a clear lack of options in his position.
Since Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw emerged as Three Lions regulars, Rose has inevitably fallen down the pecking order.
The 31-year-old played just over a season more in north London before moving to Newcastle on loan in January 2020.
Upon his return six months later, he was then left out of Jose Mourinho’s Premier League and Europa League squads, having not seen eye-to-eye with the Portuguese manager.
After over a year on the sidelines, Rose joined newly-promoted Watford on a free transfer and looked certain to claim the starting spot a left-back.
However, as of January this year, the ex-England international has not played a single minute at the club and could not be further away from Southgate’s World Cup plans.
Left-back Danny Rose will now play in the Championship following Watford’s relegation
The centre-back’s crowning moment in an England shirt came during the 2018 World Cup, as his spot-kick sent England through a nervy penalty shootout against Colombia in the round of 16.
The 28-year-old has remained at Tottenham since 2018 – but a couple of poor seasons after the World Cup saw his minutes deplete and his England stock diminish.
Dier went from averaging 36 Premier League appearances every campaign between 2015 and 2018 to 22 in the three seasons after the World Cup.
Meanwhile, strong performances from Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings and Ben White prompted Southgate to drop the defender and leave him out of his Euro 2020 squad.
Dier bounced back this season under Antonio Conte, featuring 35 times for Spurs as they qualified for the Champions League over Arsenal.
According to Southgate’s Nations League squad, Dier is lower than Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi in the pecking order – he will have to enjoy a phenomenal start to next season to convince the England boss of another World Cup call-up.
Eric Dier has enjoyed life under Antonio Conte but is still not part of Gareth Southgate’s plans
He was a part of England’s starting lineup in Russia, but Jesse Lingard can no longer convince Southgate he is worth gambling on.
With Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Foden, Mount and Saka each preferred by the Three Lions chief, it seems the 29-year-old’s days in the England set-up are swiftly evaporating.
Regular game-time has always been the problem – Lingard has only played more than 30 Premier League games once during a season, which happened to come in the build-up to Russia.
Now, having exited Old Trafford as a free agent, the attacking midfielder has little chance of making the plane to Qatar if he doesn’t blow Southgate away at his new club.
Lingard’s best spell since Russia came during his loan stint at West Ham last season, where he scored nine and assisted five in just 16 appearances.
Manchester United decided to let midfielder Jesse Lingard exit on a free transfer this summer
The 29-year-old goalkeeper was recruited as third-choice to Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope in Russia, but has since fallen out of the picture between the England posts.
Jack Butland was relegated with Stoke City in 2017-18 ahead of the World Cup and subsequently spent the next two seasons in the Championship, away from Southgate’s direct view.
A move to Crystal Palace in October 2020 rescued a few embers of hope for Butland, but he has continued to play second fiddle to Vicente Guaita while competitors Aaron Ramsdale, Pope and Pickford earn regular starts.
Jack Butland now looks on as Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope fight for Jordan Pickford’s spot
The Brighton striker was one of three England centre-forwards at the 2018 World Cup, deputising for captain Harry Kane and now-retired international Vardy.
Following the tournament, Danny Welbeck played just eight games in the next season for Arsenal and subsequently moved to Watford at the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
The forward only notched two goals in 19 games for the Hornets and soon left to Brighton on a free transfer, where he has spent his last two seasons.
Contributing six goals and three assists in both of his Brighton campaigns, the 31-year-old is far behind the likes of Tammy Abraham, Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack.
Brighton’s Danny Welbeck notched six goals and three assists in each of the last two seasons
The 30-year-old defender has been at Old Trafford since joining from Blackburn in 2011 and has managed 27 senior England caps in that period.
As Southgate favoured a back three system in defence, Phil Jones was taken as a squad player to support Kyle Walker, John Stones and Harry Maguire in the first team.
Injury marred the defender’s England career – and his time at Manchester United – before the 2018 tournament, but Jones has continued to struggle in recent campaigns.
Six Red Devils appearances in the last two seasons has drilled the nail firmly in the coffin as far as Jones’ England prospects are concerned, and Southgate is certain to look elsewhere when recruiting defenders for Qatar.
Red Devils defender Phil Jones has had his domestic and international career marred by injury
In the build-up to the summer of 2018, Fabian Delph played left-back for Pep Guardiola in his first Premier League winning campaign with Manchester City.
The former Aston Villa midfielder featured 22 times for the champions and found his way into Southgate’s Russia squad, largely as a utility player.
However, as Guardiola’s first-choice left-back Benjamin Mendy returned from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Delph saw his minutes slashed by more than half in the following season.
A switch to Everton in July 2019 offered him a fresh start, but the 32-year-old failed to hold down a long-term spot in the Toffees team, registering just 27 Premier League caps across the last two campaigns.
Frank Lampard relied on Fabian Delph’s leadership as Everton fought off the drop last season
A regular starter in Russia, Ashley Young filled a gaping void at left-back for Southgate before the likes of Chilwell and Shaw entered the fray.
And unlike most players on this list, Young kicked on after the World Cup and played 30 league matches for Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the 2018-19 campaign.
However, the Aston Villa defender was aged 33 during England’s journey in Russia, and it was almost inevitable he would not be included in Southgate’s future plans.
Before arriving at Villa Park last season, Young spent two fruitful years at Inter Milan and helped the Spanish giants win Serie A in 2020-21.
Ashley Young was the first-choice left-back for England at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
In 2018, most England fans would have been shocked to hear that Marcus Rashford might miss the next World Cup on talent alone.
The Red Devils forward was expected to develop into a future England superstar but his form in recent years – particularly last season – has dropped him out of Southgate’s plans altogether.
Rashford returned a meagre four goals and two assists in 25 Premier League appearances last season, typifying Manchester United’s off-the-boil campaign.
A growing problem for the 24-year-old is that he has struggled to convince Southgate – and even former United head coaches – of his best position, switching between both flanks and the centre-forward spot.
Moreover, Rashford is bidding for a highly-competitive position in the England set-up, with Foden, Sterling, Saka, Sancho, Mount and Grealish each fighting for a place in Southgate’s front three.
An outstanding start to next campaign under new boss Erik ten Hag would throw the attacker back into the running, but he will first have to convince the Dutchman to play him in regularly.
Marcus Rashford must now convince Erik ten Hag of his talents during the Red Devils’ new era
Another young star tipped to take the international stage by storm, Dele Alli was one of Southgate’s brightest sparks in Russia.
Skilful, hard-working and full of swagger, the attacking midfielder earned his World Cup stripes having scored nine and assisted 11 in the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.
The season before, Alli scored a career-best 18 league goals for Tottenham.
But over the last two years, a sudden decline in performances has seen the 26-year-old lose his place in the Spurs starting lineup, coinciding with the departure of former boss Pochettino.
The South London club allowed Alli to leave on a free transfer in January to Everton but his fortunes at Goodison Park have not altered all that much.
Although he managed to total 11 appearances whilst helping the Toffees stay in the top flight, the midfielder failed to contribute a single goal or assist.
With a lack of returns and a first-team spot in question, Alli has a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb if he hopes to reclaim his spot in the England squad.
Attacking midfielder Dele Alli used to be a natural goal-scorer for England but has fallen away
A surprise selection in 2018, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was another youngster expected to benefit and grow from the major tournament experience.
The midfielder made the squad after a profitable loan spell at Crystal Palace from Chelsea in 2017-18 – somewhat mirroring the fruitful stint Blues starlet Conor Gallagher enjoyed at Selhurst Park last campaign.
The following season, Loftus-Cheek returned his best goal tally, scoring six in the Premier League and four in the Europa League.
But since, the 26-year-old has struggled to solidify himself as a regular starter in Chelsea’s star-studded lineup, prompting him to test out a loan spell at Fulham in 2020-21 before returning to Stamford Bridge last summer.
Blues chief Thomas Tuchel entrusted the box-to-box midfielder to feature in 24 of Chelsea’s Premier League matches last season, but Southgate seems to have a number of midfielders – namely Kalvin Phillips, Jude Bellingham, James Ward-Prowse and Gallagher – above him on his list.
Thomas Tuchel handed Ruben Loftus-Cheek 24 league appearances for Chelsea last campaign
Kicking off Southgate’s standby list, Tom Heaton was the fourth-choice goalkeeper at the tournament having returned from an injury-troubled season at Burnley.
Aged 32 at the time, the keeper was clearly brought in for experience and has since taken a backseat role at Old Trafford, third-choice behind David de Gea and Dean Henderson.
Between 2018 and his 2021 move to Manchester, Heaton played a final season at Burnley before moving to Aston Villa.
He was first choice between the sticks until Emi Martinez’s transfer to Villa Park in 2020 – since then he hasn’t played a single minute of Premier League football.
Red Devils’ Tom Heaton may be upgraded to second-choice if Dean Henderson chooses to exit
After claiming his only two senior international caps in March 2018, James Tarkowski earned a spot on Southgate’s standby list for Russia.
In many ways, his performances for Burnley have stepped up a level since 2018 and he has grown into an integral leader at Turf Moor.
The 29-year-old has regularly flirted with a move away from the club and may finally wave goodbye to the Burnley fans this summer having suffered relegation to the Championship.
Everton are reportedly eyeing a swoop for Tarkowski ahead of next season but his England prospects seem slim, as Southgate opts to offer minutes to younger centre halves such as Guehi and White.
James Tarkowski is linked with Everton having suffered relegation with Burnley last season
Having played 29 appearances for Bournemouth in 2017-18, Lewis Cook won his first and only England cap three months before the World Cup – and was subsequently put on standby.
The 25-year-old has since endured a rather torrid time with the Cherries, playing just 13 times the following season and suffering relegation to the second-tier in 2019-20.
Despite fully dropping out of Southgate’s short and long-term plans, Cook will at least be back in the top flight next season, having won automatic promotion to the Premier League with Bournemouth.
Bournemouth star Lewis Cook earned his only stripes for England against Italy in March 2018
Fewer names on this list raise the eyebrows more than West Bromwich Albion captain Jake Livermore, who won a standby spot after his first season at the Hawthorns.
Despite getting relegated, the 32-year-old played 34 Premier League matches for the Baggies and crucially offered Southgate depth in defensive midfield.
Now that Declan Rice, Bellingham, Gallagher and Phillips have joined Jordan Henderson in England’s double-pivot, most have forgotten that Livermore was once in-and-around the England squad just four years ago.
West Brom skipper Jake Livermore has played in the Championship since the last World Cup
Finally, Adam Lallana filled out the standby list after continuing to reprise his squad role at Liverpool in 2017-18.
The 34-year-old was struggling with hamstring injuries at the time and only returned to Jurgen Klopp’s side on the last day of the season, which did not give him enough time to break into the initial 23-man squad.
Whether he would have made it anyway is up for debate, but Lallana has since been dropped from the England set-up for good to make way for the new generation.
The midfielder moved to Brighton in the summer of 2020 and has managed to steer clear of injury concern, making an average of 27 appearances each season.
Adam Lallana helped Brighton to accomplish their best ever top flight finish last season (9th)