England opened their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with back-to-back wins against Italy and Ukraine.
After crashing out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup at the quarter-final stage to then-champions France, the Three Lions’ ability to make that last step to becoming champions was called into question.
They’ll have to wait until next summer to truly right such wrongs and rewrite headlines, but Gareth Southgate’s men are on the right track again.
Who impressed the most over this international window and whose stock is plummeting? Let’s dive in…
A special boot for a special player / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages
England’s record scorer, standing alone in history.
Harry Kane has now found the back of the net 55 times while representing the Three Lions. His place in the record books has been cemented, and his two goals against Italy and Ukraine showed he is still thinking about the present and future, revealing his ambition to reach 100 strikes for England.
Rashford has been nursing an injury / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages
You know a player is a superstar when they make headlines for doing absolutely nothing.
Rashford pulled out of the England squad through injury – the fifth time that he has done that in the last six international windows minus the World Cup.
Southgate initially bemoaned this record but did defend Rashford’s impromptu trip to New York. Nevertheless, his stock will have fallen within the Three Lions setup.
Boy wonder / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages
Rashford’s Manchester United form has been extraordinary, but it has slightly overshadowed that of England teammate and Arsenal rival Bukayo Saka.
Following his impressive showing against Ukraine – picking out Kane with a pinpoint cross for the opener before firing into the top corner himself – the 21-year-old has reaffirmed just why Southgate was early on the hype train and has stuck by him since.
Sterling used to be a nailed on starter for England / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages
Saka’s gain is Raheem Sterling’s loss. Southgate appeared to have run out of faith in the Chelsea forward at the World Cup, preferring various other options in his frontline.
Sterling hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons at Stamford Bridge, but then again no one really has. He’ll need a big end to this season and stellar 2023/24 campaign to work his way back into England’s starting XI.
Ivan Toney, England international / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages
“Until I am instructed that there is a ban – if there is to be one – then he’s eligible for selection,” Southgate said of Ivan Toney’s England future in relation to any ban he may receive for breaching betting regulations.
Having not played a single minute the last time he received a call-up, the Brentford striker made his debut for the Three Lions this time around. As Southgate says, Toney is clearly in his thinking until informed otherwise.
Maddison won just his second England cap / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages
Like Toney, James Maddison was able to get some meaningful minutes for England this window, making his first start for his country in the Ukraine win.
While the Leicester playmaker didn’t grab a goal contribution, his creative spark was clear to see and he brought a unique balance to Southgate’s attack.
Foden had his appendix removed on Sunday / Ciancaphoto Studio/GettyImages
Poor Phil Foden, taken off 11 minutes after coming on as a sub against Italy, struck down by a sudden bout of appendicitis on the eve of the Ukraine match.
It’s not been a great season for Foden, despite grabbing a couple of goals at the World Cup. Maddison and Jack Grealish look firmly ahead of him in England’s creative forward ranks, and Manchester City’s constant rotation means he could struggle to win his place back when he’s fit again.
A winner trying to become a champion / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages
There was much debate about whether Southgate should have stayed or left after the World Cup, but with two wins from two to kick off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign – including a victory in their toughest away game – that noise has disappeared.
The Three Lions’ ship has been steadied again.