Eric Dier is "grateful" to be back in the England squad for the World Cup after fearing he may never play for the Three Lions again following his Euro 2020 omission.
Tottenham defender Dier was a notable absentee from Gareth Southgate's side for the coronavirus-delayed European Championship in 2021, where England lost in the final to Italy on penalties.
The likes of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady were preferred at the back by Southgate, though Dier has returned to the fold for Qatar.
England face Iran in Monday's Group B opener and Dier acknowledged he thought the chance to represent his country at a major tournament may never come again.
"I'd be lying if I said that didn't cross my mind [that I might not be in England contention again]," the 28-year-old said.
"When I missed out on the Euro 2020 squad that was one of the worst moments of my career.
"I'm grateful to be here now. I'm very proud of myself how I managed to fight my way back in."
Dier has been ever-present for Tottenham in the Premier League this season, pinpointing his "special" coach Antonio Conte as the reason for his upturn in form.
"Last season after Antonio Conte arrived that was some of the best football I've played – and it has carried into this season," he added.
"I'm enjoying every minute of working with him. He's a special manager."
The 32 nations competing at the 2022 World Cup face an unprecedented situation, with the world's elite leagues pausing for a mid-season break to allow their stars to compete for glory in the Middle East.
"It's a unique situation for us. In some ways it's quite nice. Maybe not for the coaches and managers - it's not ideal [for them]," Dier continued.
"From a player's point of view, the quick turnaround is nice. We're here and just getting straight into it. I'm quite impatient. There are other aspects that aren't so great with injuries when they wouldn't usually have missed a tournament. I'm very excited to start."
Host nation Qatar has also come under widespread criticism amid concerns over their human rights record in a country where same-sex relationships are prohibited.
England manager Southgate, captain Harry Kane among a host of other senior figures competing at the World Cup have vowed to speak out, though Dier suggested players have been left in a difficult situation.
"It's extremely difficult for us as players. We know these topics are going to be addressed - it's a difficult situation," the centre-back said.
"When the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, I was 16 at the time. It's difficult for me to talk on it. As players, we have no say on where we play.
"Those decisions are made by people way above us. We're the ones who end up sitting here having to answer these questions.
"I carry the values I've been given by my family and those who educated me. We've been here a very short time. For me, it's important to live this experience. At that point, I'll have a better idea of what to say on it.
"A lot of things that are disappointing have happened. As a team we carry values wherever we go – but we respect everywhere we go."