In the first instalment of a new player interview series looking ahead to the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022, we chat to Mason Mount about his memories of childhood tournaments, famous goals and iconic players, and hear about his hopes for Qatar.

After representing England from Under-16 level all the way up to the senior side, with success at the 2017 Under-19 Euros part of the journey, Mount currently has 31 caps to his name and will be hopeful of retaining his place in the squad for the winter tournament later this year.

That would be the 23-year-old’s first involvement at a World Cup, a childhood ambition close to being fulfilled and one that is naturally generating plenty of excitement, as he explains in this exclusive interview which explores the midfielder’s tournament favourites…

First World Cup you remember?

‘I know the big goals from 2002, like Ronaldinho scoring against England in the quarter-finals, but I don’t really remember it because I was only three years old at the time. Germany 2006 was probably the first one I was really aware of, particularly Wayne Rooney lighting it up.

‘When I was growing up, those tournaments used to be on when I was away with my family over the summers so we would be watching it together, all with our England tops on. The excitement around every game is something that always sticks with me.

‘A World Cup brings everyone together, the whole nation really, and that’s a big memory I have of that time.’

What are your memories of watching growing up?

‘It’s a family gathering really. I’ve always watched the tournaments as a fan and been very invested watching the legends that have played for England and all the other countries. It’s obviously a bit different now being involved in it and you try not to get too carried away.

‘I actually went to the last World Cup in Russia and was able to watch a game there live, which was the first ever game I’ve watched live at a World Cup, so that was a special one. It was the first group game against Tunisia and I went out there with Phil Foden and Ryan Sessegnon. Harry Kane scored the winner late on.

‘It was great to just be around that and the whole lead-up to it, being around a couple of days before the first game. We were able to go to the England team hotel and just get a feel for what it’s like playing for your country at a World Cup so that was a special experience. It meant a lot to me and I learned a lot from the trip.’

Favourite World Cup song?

‘I always used to remember the Shakira song for the 2010 World Cup [Waka, Waka, This Time for Africa], that was a real tune!

‘I also used to love Vindaloo, that’s just a legendary song. We had the lot when I was a kid – flags on the car and in the house, music on, face paint for every game, barbeque in the garden, we really went for it.’

Memorable World Cup moment?

‘It wasn’t actually a goal in the end but the Lamps shot against Germany that didn’t count. I was watching that game live and I can feel the frustration still now because everybody knew it was a goal but they didn’t give it.

‘The most recent ones thinking of big moments has to be James Rodriguez and that tournament he had. There was the chest and volley goal, and he also scored a little dribble and chip. That tournament he had [in 2014] was crazy.’

Best players you’ve seen at a World Cup?

‘Rooney having a massive part to play at such a young age always sticks with me and also Becks [David Beckham] as well. I remember when I was younger, I always used to try to take free-kicks just like him.

‘As I’ve got a bit older, it’s watching Rooney come through and star at such a young age and be so dominant. Then obviously his career has been unbelievable, he’s set records for England and been such a top player, so he’s probably one of the main ones I watched.’

Favourite World Cup kit?

‘I always liked the red England away one and I had ‘Beckham, 7’ on the back.’

Favourite World Cup ball?

‘The Jabulani in 2010 is the one I remember and players just scoring bangers with that. I think it was the first game and someone scored from miles out, left footed, and the commentary was unbelievable. “It’s a goal for all of Africa!”

Stadium you’d like to play a World Cup final in?

‘I’d probably say let’s take it back to Porto and the Estadio do Dragao, for obvious reasons.’

Looking ahead to Qatar 2022…

‘You dream of being able to play in a tournament like that as a kid so to have an opportunity to go to a World Cup and be selected is unbelievable and so special.

‘With the group we have and what we’ve been doing over the past couple of years, we’re confident in what we can do but also very humble for the opportunity. We’ll give it everything we’ve got to go one step further than we did last tournament.’

And finally, who are the teams to watch out for?

‘There’s always top teams like Spain and Germany from Europe and then teams like Brazil and Argentina, who I’ve never played against before. They’re the kind of games you really do look forward to because they are rare opponents for us in international football.

‘What they’ve done in past tournaments and the history behind it, they’re the games you want to play in with the top players they have. That’s what you want to come up against.’