The importance of Harry Kane to the England national side cannot be understated.
Not only is the striker one of the few star players in the side, he is arguably one of a handful of players who is a guaranteed starter. With the exception of Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling, not one player can say with any great confidence that, barring injury, they will be a fixture in the starting XI in Russia.
Unlike in other seasons, many of those vying for starting positions with the national team are not playing regularly at club level.
John Stones has fallen out of favour at Manchester City and Gary Cahill at Chelsea, Phil Jones has been side-lined by injury at Manchester United, while Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana have all had disrupted seasons at Liverpool.
Dele Alli’s form this season has not replicated the lofty heights he previously set himself, while Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater have not featured since their moves to Stamford Bridge.
There is uncertainty too in the goalkeeping department too, with Jack Butland assumed first choice but by no means having the position nailed down.
Up front about limitations
Yet the main concerns for England lie in attack, with Kane’s absence exposing the lack of alternatives for Gareth Southgate.
Without the Tottenham striker, Danny Welbeck (15 goals) is the highest international scorer in the squad – and he is largely considered to be down the pecking order at Arsenal, where he has scored just 22 goals across four appearances.
The next highest-scoring England international is Ashley Young – seven goals in 31 appearances – but his attacking presence will be severely hamstrung due to his conversion into a full-back role by Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.
Jamie Vardy is in form and Marcus Rashford undoubtedly has great potential yet neither appear to be in a position where they could be relied upon for goals at an international tournament.
Beyond this, options are limited – Tammy Abraham and Dominic Solanke have both been capped under Southgate yet both are far from ‘tournament ready’, while Daniel Sturridge’s career has been curtailed by a series of injury problems.
Wayne Rooney has retired from international football while Jermaine Defoe, now aged 35, is surely out of contention too.
Outside of Kane and Vardy, Brighton striker Glenn Murray is the highest English scorer in the Premier League but, at 34, he is unlikely to win a first international cap.
Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson could potentially be considered and he has done extremely well to return to form after successive cruciate knee ligament injuries.
Lack of cutting edge
The Three Lions are in a state of flux. Following the swift 2016 dismissal of Sam Allardyce, Southgate appears to be a ‘caretaker’ boss, holding the tiller until a long-term option becomes available.
There is talent throughout the ranks yet many players have not progressed as hoped with a number’s growth impacted by consistent injury issues.
England’s best hope for goals may come from their attacking midfield trio of Jesse Lingard, Alli and Sterling. But worries over a lack of cutting edge may manifest themselves when it matters most in Russia.
Who do you think England should be looking at as a potential replacement for Harry Kane? Let us know by commenting below.