The abiding image of the last World Cup in South Africa 2010 for many England fans was of Mesut Ozil leaving Barry for dead on the half-way line on the way to completing the 4-1 rout of our men in red. But for me, it was a statistic that existed before a ball was even kicked in anger that haunts me the most. The average age of the squad was 28.7 years old; beating a long-standing record from 1954.
Capello’s choice to inexplicably leave out Theo Walcott; his hat-trick hero from Croatia, in favour of the 28 year old Shaun Wright-Phillips epitomised this for me. He seemed unable to waver for one minute from the view that experience is always better than youthful exuberance. While Sven taking Walcott and Lennon to Germany in 2006 was almost certainly a step too far in the other direction, at least he seemed to understand the need for a feeling of freshness that they could provide.
We are all too aware of England’s dour display throughout the 2010 tournament and, although it did bring an end to the international careers of some members of the squad, many more would stay on to remain an integral part of future teams.
With England scraping through qualifying for Euro 2012 still relying on the old guard of Ferdinand, Lampard, Terry and Cole, Roy Hodgson was placed in a no-win situation when given the manager’s job so soon to the beginning of the tournament. I can understand his decision to stick with experience in order to avoid embarrassment, and at least that was achieved.
I believe that the fast approaching Brazil World Cup presents Hodgson with a fantastic opportunity to pick those with promise and potential. Despite the complaints of many fans of the national team, there is in fact plenty of English talent bursting onto the scene at the same time. Southampton exhibits the prime examples of this; providing Callum Chambers, Nathaniel Clyne, Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana, and Jay Rodriguez to the pot of England lions.
It is perhaps even the case, if Brendan Rodgers is to be believed, that England has the best young player in Europe at their disposal. Raheem Sterling has shone in a Liverpool shirt for most of the year but has come to the fore most noticeably in the latter half of the season. It is even more impressive that these performances have come at a time when the pressure at Anfield has been mounting with their title challenge. Rather than being phased by the situation, the Jamaican-born winger has grown in the lime-light.
Recent man of the match displays to go along with frequent goal and assist contributions have drawn the attention of outside observers. People were left staggered by the composure he exhibited to calmly shimmy past Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany in the clash against Man City. But the truth is, he has been putting in these sorts of performances on a much more regular basis. While he possesses an entirely different set of skills to a young Wayne Rooney, I believe that he can have a similar impact on this summer’s World Cup as Rooney did in Euro 2004. With mavericks like this, England can give themselves a chance to shock a few.
Hodgson has shown a degree of faith in some of these players in friendly internationals before the tournament proper, but should take this a step further. Give the young guns their heads, and not only do they have the chance to grow together, but the element of surprise that many continue to demonstrate on a weekly basis in league football could push England further than we all expect in Brazil.
Do you think Roy should place his trust in the youngsters to do us proud in Brazil? Or do we need as much tournament experience as possible? Let us know your thoughts using Match Chat or tweet us.