Ahead of England’s Euro 2020 opener on Sunday against Croatia, one of the few certainties about their lineup is that it will take the knee before kickoff.
However, the formation, tactical approach and personnel that manager Gareth Southgate will utilise after that anti-racist gesture are mostly unknown – and not because of some masterful secrecy in his camp.
Usually, there are one or two question marks heading into a tournament opener but in the case of Southgate’s England, there are enough for a full evening of the pub quiz.
Harry Kane will lead the line and captain the team and John Stones will play in the centre of defence but beyond those two certainties, there are only probables and possibles.
The injury to central defender Harry Maguire has given Southgate his biggest headache – does he trust the inexperienced Aston Villa centre-half Tyrone Mings enough to partner him with Stones in a conventional back four?
If not, he will probably revert to three at the back and play with wing-backs.
With Jordan Henderson only just returning from injury, Declan Rice is the most obvious starter in the holding midfield area, but will he fly solo or with a partner such as Kalvin Phillips?
The most exciting part of the England team is the creative midfield area. Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish are all exciting talents, but is Southgate brave enough to play all three together?
And then there are Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, considered certainties a year ago to play either side of Kane but who have both been below their best in recent months.
“Whether we play with wingers in a 4-3-3, number 10s in a 3-4-3, with two wingers and a number 10 in a 4-2-3-1, we’ve got in those front slots very exciting players who can win matches,” said Southgate.
Normally the pre-tournament games would give a clue to a coach’s thinking but Southgate decided to rest his Manchester City and Chelsea players after they played in last month’s Champions League final.
(With Reuters inputs)