Gareth Southgate could well stay with the same starting eleven for England’s second Group B game against the USA on Friday.
Don’t expect much – if any – changes after the team recorded their biggest win ever to kick off their World Cup final.
The old adage ‘don’t change a winning team’ will ring loud in Southgate’s mind, those were the positives that came from the 6-2 win over Iran.
And – apart from James Maddison – the rest of the team has been given a clean bill of health and everyone is available for selection.
Watching captain Harry Kane train without tying his troublesome right ankle and moving freely and seemingly pain-free is the biggest asset for the England boss.
Kane is England’s only irreplaceable. The one man whose absence dramatically weakens an England starting eleven. He will start.
Just like Harry Maguire, who will win his 50th international cap.
Probably the most controversial selection in both Southgate’s original team announcement, and again when he was nominated to anchor the defense against Iran on Monday – Maguire recovered from the illness that forced him to the Khalifa International stadium.
Southgate rarely tinkers with his defense when it’s performing well, and while there were concerns about how easily a demoralized Iranian attack could penetrate in the second half with one poorly marked goal and an unreliable penalty, I expect England to stick with a flatback four.
That formation provides an extra man in midfield, which could be critical as they try to counter the energy levels and functioning of the US team.
That’s where Jude Bellingham’s athleticism comes back into focus.
He scored his first goal for England and his country’s first goal of this tournament against Iran. More importantly, he brought a mobility and energy to England’s midfield that will be crucial against the Americans.
He was player of the match against Iran and could become one of England’s key players over the course of the tournament.
Bellingham is the traditional No. 8 that England has been looking for for many years. A true box-to-box player with a refined engine and aptitude for both attack and defense.
He has made himself unbreakable.
The same can be said of Bukayo Saka. He has been outstanding all season so far in helping Arsenal to the top of the Premier League and has continued that form for England.
His two goals – both brilliantly taken – were a bonus, and it would be a brave (or foolish) person to doubt whether he will keep his spot on the right wing.
Unless there are some behind-the-scenes fitness issues that Southgate hasn’t revealed, perhaps the only area he needs to make a major decision on is right-back.
Walker urges a return to action
Kyle Walker has declared himself fit and ready to play after undergoing groin surgery early last month. His pace could be a real bonus against the US whether England go with three centre-backs or a flat four.
Not that Kieran Trippier did anything wrong against Iran. He was a solid seven out of 10, as always, and his dead ball ability provides a dangerous option on set pieces.
Trippier was substituted after a tough challenge in the second half saw him floored on Monday. He’s been training, but how he recovered from that knock could affect Southgate’s thinking.
The right-back selection could depend on which of Trippier and Walker has the superior match fitness.
There are believable reasons for Walker and Kalvin Phillips to both get some playing time, as they need minutes in their legs to continue their rehabilitation after surgery.
But with the luxury of five substitutes per game, their involvement may well be off the bench for the time being.
Southgate will also be well aware that should England beat the US, they will qualify for the knockout stages of this World Cup with a game to spare – a game (against Wales) that would give him the luxury of beating many other players in the squad to give a run-out.
Only once during the European Championship, as England progressed all the way to the final, did Southgate make more than two changes to his starting line-up from the previous game.
You would expect him to have a similar philosophy in Qatar, and so if England continues to perform well there could be consistency in his team selection from game to game.