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.

Jota takes super sub to new level in Wolves win

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Sometimes the phrase “game changer” is used a bit too loosely, but there’s no debating Diogo Jota fit the bill to a ‘t’ on Thursday.

Wolves scored four times in 11 minutes, three coming courtesy Jota, as the Premier League side buried Besiktas 4-0 in Europa League play on Thursday.

Jota entered in the 56th minute, scored in the 57th, and completed his hat trick in the 68th.

[ MORE: Who can Wolves draw in UEL? ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men had already clinched a place in the knockout rounds before the match day, and finish one point below Braga in Group K.

Jota has five goals in five days after scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 23-year-old had an up-and-down season to start but has been mostly good over the past half-dozen games.

He has 37 goals in 107 matches with Wolves, including nine in all competitions this season. He scored nine times last season after a 17-goal campaign in the Championship.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ other goal, with the day’s assists going to Oskar Buur, Joao Moutinho, and Pedro Neto.

 

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Europa League?

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Group winners Arsenal and Manchester United will avoid a loaded batch of seeded teams, while runners-up Wolves can draw a bevy of powerful teams in the Europa League Round of 32.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can find himself drawn against former club Porto, but also could have to match wits with Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, Inter Milan’s Antonio Conte, or Red Bull Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch.

[ MORE: Man Utd pounds AZ ]

Speaking of Marsch, the Salzburg boss could go from meeting Liverpool to squaring off with Steven Gerrard and Rangers.

Gerrard could also, of course, go up against hated playing days’ rival Manchester United.

Seeded teams
Ajax
Arsenal
Basel
Benfica
Braga
Celtic
Espanyol
Gent
Inter Milan
Istanbul Basaksehir
LASK
Malmo
Manchester United
Porto
Red Bull Salzburg
Sevilla

Unseeded teams
APOEL Nicosia
AZ Alkmaar
Bayer Leverkusen
Club Brugge
Copenhagen
CFR Cluj
Eintracht Frankfurt
Ludogorets Razgrad
Olympiacos
Rangers
Roma
Wolfsburg
Wolves
Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon

Who can Premier League teams draw in the Round of 32?

Arsenal: APOEL Nicosia, AZ Alkmaar, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Manchester United: APOEL Nicosia, Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge, Copenhagen, CFR Cluj, Eintracht Frankfurt, Ludogorets Razgrad, Olympiacos, Rangers, Roma, Wolfsburg, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sporting Lisbon

Wolves: Ajax, Basel, Benfica, Celtic, Espanyol, Gent, Inter Milan, Istanbul Basaksehir, LASK, Malmo, Porto, Red Bull Salzburg, Sevilla

Four-star Manchester United wins Europa League group

Manchester United Mata Greenwood
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Manchester United is in fine feather and showing it, smashing AZ Alkmaar in a stylish 4-0 win at Old Trafford in Europa League play on Thursday.

Juan Mata had a goal and set up two others, while Mason Greenwood scored twice after Ashley Young opened the scoring in a group-claiming victory.

[ MORE: Saka leads Arsenal comeback ]

United wins the group with 13 points, conceding just twice in six matches.

The Red Devils have won three-straight matches, as AZ joins Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the loss column. Up next is a Sunday visit from Everton in the Premier League before Wednesday’s League Cup quarterfinal visit from Colchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed starts to James Garner, Brandon Williams, and Axel Tuanzebe, bringing youngsters Ethan Laird and Tahith Chong off the bench.

Greenwood, 18, now has six goals in 22 senior appearances, while Mata, 31, gets on the score sheet for the first time this season.

For his career, the award-winning Spaniard is doing okay, though: 125 goals and 149 assists in 542 senior appearances.

Ljungberg hails ‘amazing’ teen Saka after game-changing performance

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Arsenal phenom Bukayo Saka‘s big day spurred the Gunners to a top seed in the Europa League knockout rounds.

Arsenal went behind on two deflected goals in the second half’s first 25 minutes, but Saka answered with a goal and an assist in three minutes to take a point from Belgium in a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege.

[ RECAP, VIDEO: Standard Liege 2-2 Arsenal ]

Saka was at the heart of it of all good things Arsenal, the 18-year-old handed plenty of responsibility. despite his tender age.

“He was amazing,” said interim manager Freddie Ljungberg. “He was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and full-back. He’s a tremendous talent.”

Saka had four key passes to go with his goal and assist, winning six of eight duels while producing two tackles and an interception.

Ljungberg said Arsenal hasn’t sent its young players on loan enough, though that hardly applies to Saka given he was 17 until September.

The injured Gunners used Konstantinos Mavropanos, Emile Smith-Rowe, Joe Willock, and Reiss Nelson in the Starting XI, and brought Gabriel Martinelli off the bench.

“I feel sorry for our young players,” he said. “A lot of them haven’t been on loan, they’ve not had that exposure to men’s football. Some of them made mistakes but they’ll learn from those mistakes and won’t do them again.”

Smith-Rowe was loaned to RB Leipzig last season and Nelson starred on loan at Hoffenheim. Mavropanos played first team football for Greek Super League side PAS Giannina in his late teens.

Arsenal joins Premier League sides Wolves and Manchester United in the knockout rounds, having lost the Europa League final to rivals Chelsea at the end of last season.

The Gunners beat West Ham on Monday and host Manchester City at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday.