England's World Cup XI: Paul Merson picks bold side for Iran match

Paul Merson

England will be one of the favourites for the World Cup, which starts in just over two months’ time.

The Three Lions have been getting progressively better in major tournaments under Gareth Southgate.

They finished fourth at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, before narrowly missing out to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

England fans will be hoping 2022 is the year the nation finally gets over their hoodoo and ends their long wait for a major trophy.

The Three Lions have a number of talented players, but the XI that starts against Iran in their opening game of the 2022 World Cup is far from certain.

Should Harry Maguire play in defence? Who starts at right-back? Who occupies the two wing positions alongside Harry Kane? – those are just three of the questions that Southgate will have to answer.


Paul Merson has now shared his thoughts on who should start for England at the World Cup in a column for Sky Sports.

He’s picked an eyebrow raising XI and you can view it below…

GK: Jordan Pickford

RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold

CB: Kyle Walker

CB: John Stones

LB: Kieran Trippier

Trent Alexander-Arnold in action for England
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 05: Trent Alexander-Arnold of England during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between England and Andorra at Wembley Stadium on September 05, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

CM: Declan Rice

CM: Mason Mount

CM: Phil Foden

LW: Marcus Rashford

RW: Raheem Sterling

ST: Harry Kane

Merson’s XI is very interesting.

He’s chosen a four-at-the-back formation, with three of the four in defence being right-backs.

He’s left out Reece James, who has arguably emerged into the best right-back in the world in recent times.

Merson doesn’t think Jude Bellingham should start, with out-of-form Mount and Foden partnering Rice in a very attacking midfield.

Sterling and Kane are almost guaranteed to start. Merson thinks England should recall Rashford, who had a poor season in 2021/22 but is starting to look like his old self under Erik ten Hag.

It’s a bold XI from Merson and one that hasn’t gone down very well at all among fans. View some reaction to Merson’s XI below…



Time is running out for England players to impress Southgate and force their way into his World Cup squad.

The Three Lions play their final two Nations League matches in the coming days against Italy and Germany.

England are currently winless from their four group games and are in serious danger of being relegated.

QUIZ: Can you name these 40 ‘obscure’ England players from the 21st century?

1 of 40

He made two appearances for England in 2005…

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