England expects: Youngsters aim to restore national pride

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With the full national team hardly setting the world alight and the recent cataclysmic demise of the Under-21 side during the European Championships in Israel, suddenly there’s a lot of pressure on England’s Under-20 side to perform well this summer.

The Three Lions begin their World Cup campaign in Turkey in just a few hours against Iraq, with the English public casting a watchful eye over the youngsters who should become the future of the English game.

But after Stuart Pearce lost his job following three straight defeats for the U-21 side in the European Championships, England’s youth setup is set for a major overhaul.

Heading into the 2013 U-20 World Cup, England shouldn’t exactly be classed as dark horses. Yes their players come from a whole host of Premier League clubs but the Three Lions record in this tournament is nothing short of woeful.

In their last 16 games in the U-20 World Cup, England have scored just once. Once. They face Iraq this afternoon, then Chile and Egypt in a favorable draw.

Surely now is the year to buck the trend of underachieving on the world youth stages and help restore pride in the devout soccer nation? You’d like to think so.

(MORE: US U-20’s picked apart by Spain, but coach satisfied)

During a warmup game against Uruguay last week, England triumphed 3-0 and impressed with their display. The key men for Peter Taylor’s side are Everton’s Ross Barkley, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan.

They all have senior experience in the EPL while Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse and Newcastle’s Gael Bigirimana add something different to the midfield as both appeared regularly in the EPL during the 2012-13 season.

England will expect to go far in the tournament. In any tournament that any age groups enters, England often see themselves as favorites. Perhaps that is the biggest downfall.

But with Roy Hodgson’s national team stuttering along in their World Cup qualifying campaign and the embarrassing performance of the U-21’s in Israel, Taylor’s youngsters have nothing to fear in Turkey.

England’s young guns should go out and express themselves, play with creativity and pace and take the game to the opposition. That’s something which has been severely lacking in England’s international setup for quite some time.

(MORE: USA youngsters begin World Cup quest in ‘Group of Death’)

If these players are set to be the future of the Three Lions, there is no bigger stage to showcase their talents. We’ve all heard the horror stories about how only 30 percent of the EPL is occupied by English players and that the top young talent is getting washed away by foreign imports. But if EPL managers are going to put their faith in English youngsters, they will need to prove they can do it at the international level against the world’s best youngsters.

No time like the present lads. And remember no pressure at all. The nation that invented soccer is just hoping and praying you can restore some national pride by performing well, or even bring home the U-20 World Cup this summer.

So yeah, no pressure…

Minnesota’s Molino lifts Trinidad and Tobago to big win (video)

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Minnesota United attacker Kevin Molino has given Trinidad and Tobago life in the race to win a spot at the 2018 World Cup.

Molino’s 37th minute goal gave hosts T&T a 1-0 lead against visiting Panama at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Friday, and the Soca Warriors held on to win its first points of qualifying.

Panama had a Luis Tejada goal controversially ruled offside as Los Canaleros nearly pulled their fifth point of the Hex. Panama faces the USMNT on Tuesday in Panama City.

[ WATCH: Zaha scores wonder vs. Russia ]

Molino fooled long time LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo with a low shot across the body. The Panama backstop couldn’t get low enough or far enough with his dive to stop the shot.

The win has T&T in fifth place on the Hex table, behind Honduras on goal differential and three points ahead of the last place USMNT.

The U.S. needs a two-goal win to pass T&T, and a three-goal win to climb above Honduras.

WATCH: Zaha drives Russia nuts with mazy dribble goal

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Wilfried Zaha combined balance, deft touch, and breakneck speed to score his first international goal for the Ivory Coast.

With his side leading Russia 1-0 on Friday, the Crystal Palace winger worked his way through four defenders before burying his shot.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Zaha especially fooled with Ilya Kutepov, a harsh cut nearly tipping both to the field.

He’s just 24, and it seems much longer ago that he made his failed move to Manchester United in 2013.

Failed may be a rough verb considering it all contributed to making him the player he is for Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast today.

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”