Youth over experience, England finally get it right with World Cup squad

Leave a comment

Luke Shaw, 18. Raheem Sterling, 19. Ross Barkley, 20. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 20.

All four of these youngsters were named in England’s 2014 World Cup squad by manager Roy Hodgson on Monday, as an new era was ushered in by the Three Lions.

It is about time.

In past World Cups England have always gone for experience over youthfulness and many times it has led to stale performances and the team underachieving, such as the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Fabio Capello’s aging side were knocked out in the last 16. The so-called “Golden Generation” has come and gone, with Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and others passing the torch onto a talented crop of untested youngsters for England’s assault on the World Cup in Brazil.

MORE: Roy Hodgson names 23-man England squad for World Cup

Hodgson has plumped for players that are in-form and don’t feel daunted plying their trade in the Premier League week in, week out. The likes of Shaw, Barkley and Sterling have shone in teams that have played an attractive brand of soccer this season and all deserve their place in the squad. That word, deserve, that hasn’t always been used around England squads in the past but Hodgson has dished out his 23-man squad deservedly and all of the players on that list have worked their way to the World Cup through stunning performances.

source: Getty Images
Luke Shaw, 18, is going to the World Cup with England.

Of course it would be foolish to solely rely on youngsters who haven’t had any tournament experience, so Hodgson has peppered in some nous with four players over the age of 30. Frank Lampard will be 36 at the World Cup, captain Steven Gerrard will be 33, Rickie Lambert is 32 and Ben Foster is 31. Looking down the list, only six players have played at a World Cup for England before but the Three Lions are finally taking a different approach.

This may also be the perfect time to blood youngsters, as the expectations levels are extremely low from England fans going into this World Cup compared to previous tournament.

With a young core many see this tournament as a learning experience for the Euro 2016 tournament which is something Hodgson brushed aside when asked about his reasoning for picking such a young team for this summer. The big question of experience vs. youth always crops up when these announcements are made but, how do you get experience? By giving youth a chance. In the past England’s experienced players Gerrard, Rooney and Hart were all untried and unknown on the international stage, someone had to give them a chance.

Now a plethora of English youngsters will get their chance to impress this summer in Brazil. Hodgson and his England coaching staff should be saluted for bravery in changing the norm and bringing exciting unknown quantities to the international stage, rather than big-name players of the past who failed to impact tournament’s time and time again.

The Three Lions will be led by a core of young cubs in Brazil this summer.

Chelsea chase Alexis Sanchez; Man United want Dier

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The summer transfer rumors are heating up long before the heat of summer arrives…

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

On Wednesday it is being claimed by the Guardian that Alexis Sanchez has become Chelsea’s “No.1 target this summer” as the Arsenal and Chile forward has yet to sign a new deal with the Gunners.

Per the report, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has drafted up a shortlist of the players he wants to sign this summer and Sanchez is at the top of the Italian managers wishlist as he is also close to signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge.

Sanchez, 28, has a deal at Arsenal until the summer of 2018 but if the north London club fails to agree a new deal with him this summer (as well as Mesut Ozil and Arsene Wenger, but that’s another story…) then they’ll have to sell him on or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next season.

The striker scored twice for Chile in their 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela on Tuesday and has been essential all season long to Arsenal, scoring 18 goals and adding nine assists after playing through the middle on his own for much of the campaign.

Would Arsenal really sell Sanchez to a PL rival? It wouldn’t be ideal but it’s not like they haven’t done that in the past. Think of Robin Van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy.

The thought of Sanchez on one wing with Diego Costa up top and Eden Hazard on the other wing at Chelsea should be enough to get Arsenal to offer their star man whatever cash he wants — the report states he wants $310,000 a week which would almost double his current $160,000 a week salary — when they sit down to discuss the new deal at the end of this season.


Elsewhere in north London, Tottenham Hotspur’s versatile defender Eric Dier has been linked with a $50 million move to Manchester United this summer.

According to Neil Ashton of the Sun, Dier, 23, is being lined up to replace Michael Carrick in the holding midfield role at United.

Now, Tottenham are notoriously tough to do business with and chairman Daniel Levy will not want to lose one of his top prospects and an England international to a direct rival in the Premier League.

That said, Dier has been used in multiple positions by Spurs this season and Mauricio Pochettino appears to prefer Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele as the holding midfielders and the emergence of Harry Winks has seen Dier’s importance questioned by some.

The fact that Dier can play in holding midfield or anywhere across the back line will also suit Moruinho who likes to have a smaller squad to work with and per the report the Portuguese boss has been a long-time admirer of Dier. His power to break up the play and also use he ball safely could work very well alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.

PHOTOS: Bizarre Cristiano Ronaldo statue unveiled

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Hang on, is that really meant to be Cristiano Ronaldo?

On Wednesday the Portugal and Real Madrid legend had Madeira Airport named after him just outside his hometown of Funchal and during the ceremony a bust of his head was put on show.

Except, it looked horrendous…

Take a look for yourself in the photos below. See.


 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirms Man United contract talks

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks with Manchester United about extending his stay at Old Trafford beyond this season.

[ LIVE: Stream every PL game live

The veteran Swedish striker, 35, has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions this season, and he has an option to extend his contract for another year. However, that option hasn’t been triggered yet by Ibrahimovic and United’s fans seem to be getting rather tetchy about the prospect of him not being around next season.

Ibrahimovic is enjoying life in England and revealed to the Manchester Evening News that he is in talks with the club about extending his stay in the Premier League.

“Let’s see what happens, we are talking,” Ibrahimovic said. “I have an option for another year, I want to do great as long as I’m here, so let us see, there is a lot of time. I’m enjoying being at a fantastic club, without doubts, one of the biggest clubs in the world with a great coach (Jose Mourinho).

“I know him before (from our time at Inter Milan), he’s a winner, he’s the perfect coach for this club. Being a Manchester United player, I don’t know how many people have that possibility but I am a Man United player, people wanted me here, I chose the club, I chose the best English club, that’s the way it works.”

Ibrahimovic also hinted that he would stay by stating he “never leaves a job unfinished” when talking about his dedication.

“I’m a person when I go into something I put my head 200 per cent, and I do what I’m good at. I go in, I go for the kill and I go out,” Ibrahimovic said. “And when I go out there is no complaints, that’s what I do. I never leave a job unfinished. I always go in, do my job, and in the way that is a fair play, a fair deal, that is what I do.”

With offers reported pouring in from Major League Soccer and the Chinese Super League, Ibrahimovic will likely have those kind of deals on the table next summer too. His current deal at United sees him paid over $310,000 per week but after joining from Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer it could be one of the best pieces of business in United’s history if he helps them win the Europa League and/or finish in the top four in the PL this season.

If he leads the Red Devils back to the UEFA Champions League and has one more season as the talisman for Mourinho at Old Trafford, then leaves to finish out his playing days elsewhere, the legendary forward will go down as a hero in the eyes of United’s fans.

Portugal airport to be named after Ronaldo near his hometown

Getty Images
Leave a comment

FUNCHAL, Portugal (AP) Welcome to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport.

That will be the message awaiting passengers in the Madeira Islands from Wednesday, when the local airport will be renamed after the local star by the regional government.

Ronaldo is expected to attend a ceremony at the airport outside his hometown of Funchal on Wednesday, a day after his Portugal side lost 3-2 to Sweden in the city in a friendly.

The name change attracted a lot of attention locally, with many politicians opposing it.

Portugal’s squad landed on Monday at the airport displaying the trophy it won at the 2016 European Championship in France.

Funchal also has a Ronaldo statue and a museum about the player, as well a hotel complex named after him.