England to call on Liverpool and Southampton’s youngsters for World Cup in Brazil?

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As England’s national team manager Roy Hodgson ponders his options ahead of the Three Lions’ World Cup bid in Brazil this summer, he’s spoken out about two club he’s particularly interested in.

Premier League sides Liverpool and Southampton.

Both teams now boast a whole host of youngsters playing regularly in the top-flight, as Hodgson praised the club’s investment in youth as a big plus point for England heading into the 2014 World Cup.

Needless to say, Hodgson is impressed and seems hell-bent on shaking his squad up and putting in some of the talented youngsters now on show in the PL.

The pool of players has increased this season and more teams are injecting young English players into their teams and trusting them. Raheem Sterling has been playing regularly for Liverpool, as has either Jon Flanagan or Martin Kelly. Southampton are regularly using people like Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse, Calum Chambers, Jack Cork and Jay Rodriguez. So more and more teams are turning to their academies and young players they are bringing through, which is of course a positive thing.

(MORE: England handed tough draw as Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica stand in their way at World Cup)

source: AP
Raheem Sterling has been on fire as Liverpool surge up the standings.

In the case of Liverpool, Sterling and Kelly have both been capped by England, while Flanagan has performed superbly at right back in recent months as many believe he will be called-up for England’s friendly with Denmark in March. While Southampton have had recent call-ups for academy product Adam Lallana, young striker Rodriguez and stalwart Rickie Lambert, which has shown Hodgson is willing to put faith in Saints’ talented crop of players who are surprising everyone by looking at ease in the top half of the PL standings.

With Southampton boasting a whole host of talented teenagers coming out of their academy ranks, Hodgson has a big decision to make. Does he take some of the most exciting young Englishmen who are not just prodigies but are actually doing it regularly in the PL, or rely on the old guard?

Left back Luke Shaw is just 18, but many are already earmarking him to be in England’s World Cup squad this summer, while Under-21 midfielder James Ward-Prowse has impressed with wicked deliveries and another teenage right back, Calum Chambers, has been superb all season. Chambers has been keeping another England prospect, Nathaniel Clyne who is just 22, out of Saints’ starting lineup.

In Southampton’s 1-0 midweek win against Hull, nine of Saints’ 18-man squad were eligible to play for England and five were under the age of 24 and three of those were teenagers. Liverpool don’t boast that many English players in their squad, but they have more ‘finished articles’ than Saints, with Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Flanagan, Sterling and Jordan Henderson all playing in the 3-2 win away at Fulham on Wednesday, while Martin Kelly was on the bench.

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Saints duo Shaw and Ward-Prowse could be wildcards from Hodgson this summer.

Hodgson’s comments suggest he will give youth a chance to shine in Brazil this summer, as England are well and truly in a transitional period in terms of where their squad is at. Liverpool and Southampton are two of the form teams in the PL, and it is no surprise that Hodgson wants to latch onto their talented youngsters and ride their feel-good factor into the summer and beyond.

Investment in youth is something PL teams have been slow on the uptake with, but Liverpool and Saints have shown it can work and can prove fruitful as both teams surge up the standings with young English talent leading the way.

Will these teenagers aid England’s progress this summer in Brazil? Roy is certainly contemplating giving it a go.

Why not?

Former Czech Republic defender Rajtoral kills himself

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PRAGUE (AP) Former Czech Republic defender Frantisek Rajtoral, who won the domestic league title four times before joining Turkish club Gaziantepspor, died on Sunday. He was 31.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alex Sanchez this weekend ]

The Czech football federation said in a statement that Rajtoral had “committed suicide in Turkey.”

His agent Pavel Zika confirmed the player’s death, describing it as a “huge tragedy.”

Gaziantepspor announced Rajtoral’s death in a brief statement on its website.

Rajtoral played 14 international matches for the Czech Republic.

In the top Czech league, he won four titles with Viktoria Plzen and played in the group stage of the Champions League twice for the club. He moved to Hannover in the Bundesliga in 2014 for half of the season, on loan.

He left Viktoria Plzen last year to move to Turkey.

Bellerin wants to represent Spain U21s despite Wenger’s wishes

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Arsene Wenger has made it clear about Hector Bellerin representing Spain this summer but the Arsenal defender is prepared to go against his manager’s wishes if he is selected.

[ MORE: Bayern scouted Kyle Walker, Alexis Sanchez over the weekend ]

The 22-year-old has said he hopes to play for Spain’s Under-21 side this summer during the 2017 European U-21 Championship but Wenger has been weary of Bellerin’s injury status and wants his fullback to maintain a clean bill of health throughout the offseason.

“I really want to play,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “Representing Spain is very important. If [Albert] Celades gives me the chance I’ll be there.

“Those are opinions of the managers. I have to keep working. The truth is that I had a difficult injury but I think that I am at 100% now and I’ll try to prove it when I get the chance.”

Bellerin signed a six-and-a-half year deal with the Gunners in November, where he has resided since coming up in the club’s academy. He has made 102 appearances for Wenger’s team in that span over all competitions.

Roma boosts bid for 2nd in Serie A by beating Pescara 4-1

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PESCARA, Italy (AP) Roma boosted its bid for second place in Serie A and automatic entry into the Champions League with a 4-1 win at Pescara, which was mathematically relegated on Monday.

[ MORE: Newcastle joins Brighton in promotion to Premier League ]

Roma moved four points clear of third-placed Napoli, which drew against Sassuolo 2-2 on Sunday. Third place in Serie A receives a Champions League playoff.

Pescara remained 15 points behind Empoli. There are only five matches left and Empoli has the better head-to-head record, which is the deciding factor if two teams finish level on points.

There were 48 goals in total in the 33rd round, matching the record set in October 1992.

Roma took control shortly before halftime, with Kevin Strootman breaking the deadlock after Stephan El Shaarawy unselfishly rolled the ball across the area.

Radja Nainggolan, who earlier hit the bar, doubled Roma’s lead two minutes later.

Mohamed Salah extended Roma’s advantage three minutes after the break and the winger doubled his tally on the hour following a swift counterattack.

Ahmad Benali got a consolation for Pescara and a Cristiano Biraghi free kick also hit the post for the home side.

Frank Yallop resigns as Phoenix Rising coach shortly after Drogba arrival

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The timing is a bit sudden and certainly leaves many questions up in the air, but Phoenix Rising will have to look for a new manager.

[ MORE: Chicharito talks heating up with LA FC ]

On Monday, head coach Frank Yallop resigned from his position with the United Soccer League (USL) club less than one day after former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba joined the organization as a player-owner.

With Phoenix seen as one of several lower-level clubs with ambitions of making the leap to MLS over the coming seasons, Yallop’s departure is surely a shock to many.

According to ESPN FC, Rising lead owner Berke Bakay was quite surprised by Yallop’s decision to step down, as was Drogba.

“Didier was as surprised and disappointed as we were that Frank is unable to continue coaching our Club,” Bakay told ESPN FC. “But, we all respect his decision to put his family first.

“Didier’s focus will remain on improving our team as a player and assisting our MLS expansion team ownership group as a co-owner. Frank will be helping with our international search for a new head coach.”

Rick Schantz, the current Rising assistant coach, will head the team’s managerial duties for the interim while the club completes a full search for a new manager.