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.
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.
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.