The countdown to World Cup 2018 is very much on, with England manager Gareth Southgate among those finalising his plans for a global showpiece in Russia.
With the tournament due to get underway on June 14, the clock is ticking for those charged with the task of piecing together a challenge for global glory.
England swept through their qualification campaign unscathed, with an unblemished record preserving their fine recent run when it comes to reaching major tournaments.
The Three Lions have not fared as well when the pressure is ramped up, though, and will be desperate to right the wrongs of past failings when placed back under the brightest of spotlights.
Meetings with Tunisia, Panama and Belgium represent the first obstacles to be overcome, with Southgate’s side set to start a campaign they hope will eventually see them emulate the icons of 1966 in Group G.
When will England’s squad for World Cup 2018 be announced?
Like the rest of his coaching rivals, Southgate must whittle his options down to a 23-man party by June 4 – 10 days prior to the big opening in Moscow.
For now, though, the England boss is able to name a preliminary squad from which final selections can be made, with up to 35 players allowed in the warm-up ranks.
The Football Association has announced that the big reveal of that group will take place on May 16, with Southgate set to face the media and explain his decisions 24 hours later.
Who will make England’s squad for World Cup 2018?
With just 23 seats on the plane up for grabs, Southgate has some difficult selection choices ahead of him.
The biggest of those appears set to come in the goalkeeping department, with nobody within that particular contingent assured of a place – with Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Joe Hart, Nick Pope and Fraser Forster competing for three spots.
There is greater certainty across the defensive line, with the likes of John Stones, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ryan Bertrand and Harry Maguire seemingly safely in the squad, with Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling, Michael Keane and Aaron Cresswell waiting patiently on the fringes of the fold.
In midfield, Jordan Henderson could yet take the armband, while Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Raheem Sterling will likely join him in the 23-man party and Adam Lallana, Jesse Lingard, Jake Livermore, Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Lewis Cook and Ryan Sessegnon look to provide competition.
Harry Kane is guaranteed to lead the line, as another contender for the captaincy, with Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy expected to fill support roles as the likes of Danny Welbeck and Jermain Defoe wait anxiously on a nod from their manager.
Who won’t make England’s squad for World Cup 2018?
While 23 players are about to get the call they have been longing for, for some World Cup dreams have already been dashed.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has enjoyed a welcome return to form since joining Liverpool in 2017, but he will be having the summer off 12 months on after being forced to undergo knee surgery.
Club colleague Joe Gomez will also be watching on from afar as a result of an ankle problem which has also forced him under the knife.
Sticking with the Liverpool theme and another of those to play their club football at Anfield who will be unavailable to Southgate is James Milner.
The versatile 32-year-old announced his international retirement in August 2016 and has offered no indication that he will be reversing that decision despite calls for him to come into contention.
Wayne Rooney is another of those to have removed himself from the reckoning, with the former skipper and all-time leading goalscorer hanging up his England boots in August 2017.