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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

England's worst ever players: Michael Ricketts, Scott Carson, Jon Flanagan and more

How did Carlton Cole and Jason Wilcox ever play for their country?

England went into their recent Nations League fixture against Spain with only three attacking players – Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck.

Kane is among the top strikers in the world, Rashford has plenty of potential but features mainly as a substitute for Manchester United, while Welbeck has a strong international record but plays a bit-part at Arsenal.

Behind them, manager Gareth Southgate's squad contained only five midfielders.

Raheem Sterling was missing due to injury and fellow striker Jamie Vardy recently announced his retirement from England duty.

We know all about the influx of foreign players into the Premier League and how the selection pool is becoming ever smaller to pick from.

But at least Southgate is not handing out international caps to all and sundry, unlike a number of his predecessors. Leicester City's Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray have been promoted from the under 21s for Tuesday night's friendly with Switzerland and the pair have limited Premier League experience, though Southgate is truly down to the bare bones – so much so that there is no replacement for the newly-injured Dele Alli.

England fans have had to sit through some turgid friendlies during the past couple of decades, ruined largely by what felt like endless substitutions. And this resulted in many players taking home the prized cap, while how deserving they were of then being branded an "England international" has been open to great debate.

So, take a look at the slideshow above to see which players we feel were fortunate to wear the three lions as one of England's elite.

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Read more:

Nations League defeat to Spain highlights England's shortcomings against the elite

Gareth Southgate's England challenge: to ensure a rise is not followed by a fall

Uefa Nations League a welcome addition or calendar clutter?