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In Focus: Ultimate England World Cup XI
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William Furness
Harry Kane has scored 51 goals for England
Harry Kane has scored 51 goals for England

England’s 15 previous World Cup campaigns have seen the Three Lions scale the highest heights and plumb the deepest depths — but talent has never been in short supply. 

The champions of 1966 are remembered fondly for their astonishing achievement but a number of top players have come since, even if they were unable to replicate that feat. 

As the nation enjoys England’s latest attempt to lift the famous trophy, we take a look at an XI of the best players to have ever worn the shirt at the World Cup.

Goalkeeper: Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks is widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of all time and featured 73 times for England. 

He was a key component of their 1966 title-winning side as the Three Lions conceded just three times en route to the trophy — in fact, they did not concede at all until the semi-final stage. 

Furthermore, his astonishing save against Brazil superstar Pele in 1970 is frequently touted as one of the best ever made.

Right-back: Gary Neville

Gary Neville was a solid, reliable performer for England, a sturdy right-back who played in every game during their famous Euro 96 run until he got suspended for the semi-final. 

He remained one of the first names on the team sheet until the 2002 World Cup but injuries disrupted his consistency after that. 

Neville may never have produced particularly flashy or dramatic moments in an England shirt — but he was an important part of the sides he played in.

Centre-back: Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore, with 108 appearances for the Three Lions, is perhaps the most iconic player to ever pull on the shirt. 

The only England captain to ever lift the World Cup, the centre-back’s statue remains outside Wembley and the famous photo of him holding the Jules Rimet aloft is one of the sport's most iconic snapshots. 

On the pitch, Moore was a composed, intelligent reader of the game and his defensive nous was crucial to England’s successful 1966 campaign.

Centre-back: John Terry

John Terry was a fantastic defender for England, earning 73 caps from 2003 to 2012. 

Like Moore, he was a natural leader with a phenomenal ability to read the game. 

The centre-back represented England in many tournaments and despite the team’s shortcomings overall, he was always a solid performer.

Left-back: Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole dribbles past Sami Khedira at the 2010 World Cup
Ashley Cole dribbles past Sami Khedira at the 2010 World Cup

Ashley Cole remains the most-capped full-back in English history, representing his nation 107 times from 2001 until 2014. 

In fact, Cole is the Three Lions’ sixth-most capped player of all time, playing just one game fewer than the legendary Moore. 

An incredible defender who was equally good going forward, he remains the best left-back ever to wear the shirt by some distance.

Right midfield: David Beckham

David Beckham celebrates scoring for England in 2002
David Beckham celebrates scoring for England in 2002

David Beckham provided England fans with some magical moments in his 115 caps between 1996 and 2009. 

Perhaps his finest was when he scored the goal against Greece that sent England to the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan. 

That fantastic free-kick at Old Trafford was followed up by a game-winning penalty against Argentina in the group stage.

Central midfield: Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard celebrating after scoring a goal at the World Cup for England
Steven Gerrard celebrating after scoring a goal at the World Cup for England

When England fans engage in debates about their best-ever midfielder, Steven Gerrard’s name invariably comes up. 

The Liverpool legend stands out not only for his quality but for his wide-ranging skill set, possessing the ability to both make a crucial tackle or pop up with a match-winning goal. 

Gerrard’s ability was on full display over his 114 caps and the midfielder was made captain in 2012 until his retirement.

Central midfield: Paul Gascoigne

Bobby Robson, manager of England between 1982 and 1990, described the genius of Paul Gascoigne very well. 

He said: "When Gazza was dribbling, he used to go through a minefield with his arm, a bit like you go through a supermarket." 

Gasgcoine was a magician with the ball and he certainly produced iconic moments — his wonderful solo goal against Scotland in 1996 standing out above the rest.

Left midfield: John Barnes

Despite potentially earning greater fame for his rap verse in ‘World of Motion’, John Barnes was a supremely talented attacking outlet for England, earning 79 caps. 

His world-class goal against Brazil in 1984 was arguably the winger’s most eye-catching moment. 

The left-footer possessed technical ability in abundance and his ability to dance past defenders certainly got England fans on the edge of their seats.

Striker: Gary Lineker

Gary Lineker was a talismanic striker for England. 

He scored 48 times for England in just 80 games and won the Golden boot at the 1986 World Cup, netting five times. 

He was England’s all-time top scorer in major international tournaments until his record was overtaken by Harry Kane.

Striker: Harry Kane

Kane is the only active player on this list — but he has already earned his place. 

He is England’s all-time top scorer in major tournaments and has netted an incredible 51 goals in 75 games — just two behind Wayne Rooney’s overall record. 

Since 2018, the striker has also captained the team to a World Cup semi-final and the nation's first-ever European Championships final.

Do you agree with our England all-time combined XI?
Do you agree with our England all-time combined XI?

Do you agree with our line-up? Let us know by tweeting @LiveScore.


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