In Focus: Terrific Toney targets World Cup after Brentford goal blitz
Ivan Toney has enjoyed a meteoric rise from League Two striker to England call-up — and a spot on the plane to Qatar is next in his sights.
The 26-year-old is enjoying a stellar season so far, catching Gareth Southgate's attention after firing Brentford into the top half of the table.
And Toney's excellent showings have been rewarded with a call-up to the Three Lions squad for their Nations League games against Italy and Germany.
But after being left out of the 23-man matchday squad for England's clash with the Azzurri tonight, we take a look at the attacking star's prospects of booking his place at the World Cup.
Toney started out in League Two with Northampton before being signed by Newcastle and loaned to a number of League One sides — though the Magpies eventually sold him to Peterborough after he failed to make an impact at St James' Park.
The forward was playing in the third tier as recently as 2020 but has never been fazed by a new challenge.
He scored 31 times in his first — and only — Championship campaign as Brentford won promotion via the play-offs, where he added another two strikes to his tally.
Last season was Toney's first full Premier League campaign and he took the division by storm, notching 12 goals as the Bees comfortably avoided relegation.
The West Londoners' No17 looks on course to better that total this term and will be hoping to make his mark on the international stage at the first time of asking.
Tons of goals
Toney has been a man on a mission this season, scoring five Premier League goals in just seven games — only Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Aleksandar Mitrovic have more.
The Northampton native's incisive movement has seen him get on the end of seven big chances so far, scoring three.
While the fact he has missed four significant opportunities may seem like cause for concern, the rate at which he finds himself in those dangerous positions is a positive sign.
Additionally, his five strikes have come from an expected goals tally of just 2.78, allaying any fears over how clinical he is in the final third.
Spot on from 12 yards
Not that anyone who watched Toney's sensational hat-trick against Leeds would have any cause to doubt his finishing ability.
His treble certainly did not lack variety, scoring a penalty, a direct free-kick and an audacious dink.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank hailed the centre forward as the world's best penalty taker — and the league's most in-form striker after Kane.
He said: "It's a nightmare to play against [Toney].
"Also, I have said many times he is the best penalty taker in the world and hopefully I won't get bored saying it.
"The free-kick? Wow! I said to him, if you want to take them, you have to practice. It was a classic Ivan goal, fantastic technique.
"Then [the] last one is just ridiculous, to dink it over the keeper and pull that finish out of the hat.
"Off the top of my head, looking at strikers on form, Harry Kane is number one but there is not a better striker [than Toney] after Kane on form.
"I don't see a better one. Plus, England have been in a few penalty shootouts and if they want to win one, they need to pick Ivan."
While Toney is by no means a short striker, his height — 5ft 10in — is not particularly notable.
However, his vertical leap certainly is — and the numbers demonstrate how dominant Brentford's talisman is in the air.
He has won 24 aerial duels already this season, with only team-mate Ben Mee and Fulham's Mitrovic managing more.
Opposition centre-backs always need to be prepared for a physical battle when they come up against Toney.
An intelligent creator
Toney is more than just a battering ram of a striker, however.
The Bees attacker is superb at crafting opportunities for his team-mates as well, registering two Premier League assists so far this term.
That tally could easily be higher, though, given the four big chances he has created — behind only Kevin De Bruyne and Pascal Gross.
Toney's varied skill set and threat make him a potent weapon at Southgate's disposal.
He has certainly earned an international call-up, now he needs to fight to force his way into the side.