A lot has been made of England’s youth and lack of experience at Russia 2018 as a reason to be optimistic about the future.
But with international football returning in less than eight weeks’ time with the UEFA Nations League – live on Sky – Sky Sports News understands the England team could actually get younger in the short term.
The Premier League starts in less than a month, meaning many of the players who impressed at the World Cup may not be 100 per cent fit or in sparkling form when the next international squad is announced at the end of August.
That means England’s backroom staff will be watching the next generation of players closely at the start of the domestic season – despite the average age of England’s starting XI in the semi-final defeat to Croatia being under 26 years old.
Joe Gomez, still only 21, is expected to be welcomed back into the England set-up after missing the World Cup through injury and his Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana will be hoping to show he’s fit enough for a call-up, too.
But a lot of expectation will be on the four players Gareth Southgate mentioned back in May as being potentially “six months away” from the senior side.
Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount were all name-checked by the England manager as potential call-ups, so a lot of attention will be on them at the start of the season.
18-year old Sessegnon is the favourite for a call-up as he is an integral part of the Fulham side about to embark on their first Premier League campaign in four years.
His versatility means he could put Ashley Young and Danny Rose’s position at left wing-back at threat, as well as offering an option in the front four.
Jadon Sancho, the exciting forward at Borussia Dortmund, is another young star with a genuine chance of making the senior squad sooner rather than later, Sky Sports News understands.
His form in Germany improved as the season wore on, with a star performance that included a goal and two assists against Bayer Leverkusen in April the highlight of an impressive campaign.
Foden faces a tough challenge to break into the Manchester City starting XI but with Raheem Sterling one of the players in need of rest after long summer, his opportunity could come in the opening weeks of the season.
Mount spent last season in the Eredivisie at Vitesse Arnhem, earning the supporters’ player of the year award and helping his side qualify for the Europa League, but a loan spell in England is a realistic proposition for the 19-year old midfielder, who has already trained with Southgate’s senior side.
There’s one thing connecting the four teenagers England have high hopes for: they’re all attacking in nature.
England only had 23 shots on target throughout the entire World Cup, which works out at around three per game, and around a quarter of those came in the opening fixture against Tunisia.
Gareth Southgate insists he had found a system he wants to stick with for the senior side and a style of play to be mirrored throughout the youth groups.
The likes of Nathaniel Chalobah, Harry Winks, James Tarkowski, Angus Gunn, Alfie Mawson and Tammy Abraham are on the verge of the main squad but could end up being disappointed.
England’s decision-makers no longer fear youth as the next generation of players are more used to playing in Southgate’s manner than some of the more established senior stars.
England’s upcoming UEFA Nations League games against Spain and Croatia, live on Sky Sports in September and October, will provide the first real opportunities to put those plans to the test.