England’s “golden generation” is over, meet the new kids on the block

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This week the English national team jetted off to Portugal to prepare for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil this summer.

With a new era ushered in during qualifying, there won’t be too many familiar faces on that plane to the Algarve for an intense training camp in the Iberian heat. The so called “golden generation” have finally fallen by the wayside.

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Their chance of glory and replicating the success of Bobby Moore and co. from 1966 is gone. From 2004 when they were all in their prime, up until the 2012 Euros they managed 0 semifinal appearances and underachieved time and time again. Now talented youngsters such as Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere will take the expectations of a nation on their shoulders.

England’s Three Lions will be reminiscent of young cubs this summer.

So who were the “golden generation” that were meant to take the English national team to new heights and provide the nation which founded the game much needed success after decades in the doldrums?

Here’s a reminder of who they are and what they are doing now.

“Golden Generation”

  • Steven Gerrard – Captain of England at this World Cup but it may be his last. At the age of 33 Gerrard is no longer a marauding machine in midfield. This season he reinvented himself for Liverpool and almost helped them win the title as a holding midfielder, however his slip against Chelsea proved to be the defining moment. 109 caps leave him third all-time for England.
  • Michael Owen – Now a pundit on English TV at the age of 34, Owen’s career was curtailed by several serious injuries and he never regained the pace and predatory instincts which saw him bang in goals for Liverpool and Real Madrid in his younger years. He is still fourth in the all-time list of England’s top scorers but it is a case of “what might have been” for Owen, and England.
  • David Beckham – Retired from the game last season and now owns an MLS franchise in Miami. Beckham was one of the finest midfielders England has ever produced and he captained the side in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. His presence as a leader meant he was the figure head of this golden generation but he could never lead them past the last-eight of any major competition. Record caps holder for an outfield player with 115.
source: Reuters
John Terry’s issues off the field saw him stripped of the England captaincy.
  • Rio Ferdinand – Will leave Manchester United when his contract runs out this summer. Ferdinand, 35, was the central defensive lynchpin and forged a formidable partnership with Sol Campbell and then John Terry at the heart of England’s defense. The latter partnership turned sour when Terry was involved in an alleged racist incident with Ferdinand’s brother and his form for club and country never recovered.
  • John Terry – Still captaining Chelsea, JT had a phenomenal season in the Premier League and will be around next season after signing a new deal with the Blues. There have been calls for Terry, 33, to be called back into the England setup but Roy Hodgson has resisted. Terrific player and former skipper but problems off the pitch halted his England career far too early.
  • Frank Lampard – Along with Gerrard, Lamps will be off to Brazil as an experienced head and vice-captain. His goalscoring exploits make him a crucial player and although he doesn’t have the engine to get around the pitch anymore, Lampard’s quality is undoubted. Great servant but it’s a shame his partnership alongside Gerrard never worked out.
  • Ashley Cole – Lost his place in the current World Cup squad after being left on the sidelines at Chelsea all season and has now retired from the English national team. Cole has 107 caps to his name and is Mr. Reliable. He never let the Three Lions down.
  • Paul Scholes – Retired after the 2004 Euros and was disillusioned with life at international level after being shunted out to the left wing under Sven Goran Eriksson’s time in charge. Popped up to score crucial goals. Another who left too early.
  • Wayne Rooney – Was perhaps the last, and most important, piece of the puzzle in the “golden generation” tag. Rooney has failed to leave up to his hype at the last two World Cups and desperately needs to do something special in Brazil. Has scored 39 goals in 89 games and will likely become England’s highest-ever scorer.
  • Joe Cole – Has just left West Ham after an unsuccessful second spell and Cole’s career has really gone downhill. England’s flair player at the 2006 World Cup only just made it to the 2010 after a huge campaign from fans. Fitness and loss of form has been an issue since but on his day he can unlock most defenses with his trickery. Never lived up to the hype.
  • Gary and Phil Neville – Two no-nonsense defenders, the Neville brothers operated in the full back positions for many years. They were solid and dependable and offset the skill of Beckham, Scholes and Owen. Both were dependable, if not spectacular.
source: Getty Images
Luke Shaw, 18, is going to the World Cup with England.

That was the “golden generation” but what about the new kids on the block? Let’s take a quick look at six England players who are set to be the future for the Three Lions.

The future of England

  • Luke Shaw- The Southampton teenager has made the World Cup squad at the age of 18 and has been sensational this season. For someone so young he has an incredible maturity about him and is England’s future left back for decades to come.
  • Jack Wilshere– Arsenal’s diminutive midfielder is a magician on the ball and has the bite and tenacity to run this show in the engine room. A leader at the age of 22, expect Wilshere to take over from Gerrard when the Liverpool skipper retires from the international scene.
  • John Stones– The Everton central defender has shown great promise this season and is first reserve for the national team should Phil Jones or any other player get injured. The 19-year-old is comfortable on the ball and often dribbles out of the backline to start attacks.
  • Ross Barkley – Another Everton product, the 20-year-old midfielder is in the World Cup squad and his powerful running will frighten teams in Brazil. He has scored some stunning goals this season and if handled correctly, Barkley could be a superstar.
  • Adam Lallana– Along with Shaw and Jay Rodriguez at Southampton, Lallana is England’s most exciting attacking talent heading into the World Cup this summer. Roy Hodgson waxed lyrical about the playmakers performances in recent friendlies and his silky skills are a joy to watch.
  • Daniel Sturridge – Likely to start as the lone front man or alongside Rooney this summer, Sturridge has had a breakout season for Liverpool in the PL with 25 goals. His pace, trickery and finishing ability make will see him lead the line for many years to come.

Galaxy’s Cole admits he enjoys Arsenal struggles

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LA Galaxy left back Ashley Cole left Arsenal for Chelsea more than a decade ago, but that hasn’t erased the bitter memories of the departure from his boyhood club.

Cole was famously involved in a “tapping up” meeting with Chelsea without Arsenal’s permission in 2005, but signed a contract extension with the Gunners. Still, he was gone a year later in messy circumstances.

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As the most capped fullback in England’s history who boasts both Premier League and Champions League titles with Chelsea, Cole easily could rest on his own laurels and move on from the divorce.

But when asked whether he’s enjoying Arsenal’s current struggles, Cole couldn’t help himself.

“If I’m honest, yeah, I still think to this day. I laugh to myself. I had a lot of history there and I think the way I left was maybe a bit dodgy but the lack of respect they showed me as well.”

Cole accepts a share of the blame for his time ended at Arsenal, but says he doesn’t regret it. Still, his response is not a picture of class.

Next time, just laugh and say, “Next question,” Ashley.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.