After months of speculating, players supposedly putting their hands up for selection and every football fan on Twitter turning in to a broadsheet journalist (myself included), England’s World Cup squad has finally been announced.
For all the permutations discussed in the build-up, the actual announcement proved slightly anticlimactic, much like the Premier League denouement. With injuries ruling out the likes of Theo Walcott, Kyle Walker and Jay Rodriguez, the final England squad virtually picked itself. There was to be no hint ‘bolter’ this time around but it’s fair to say Roy Hodgson has taken a leap of faith in selecting players who have impressed domestically, yet have little experience on the international stage.
The main talking point will be that of the selection of Luke Shaw and the subsequent retirement of Ashley Cole….a bold move from Hodgson and one that he admitted “was one of the toughest he has had to make.” As an England footballer, it is difficult to find fault with Cole. 107 caps, including three World Cups, only tell half the story of a man who has to go down as the country’s best ever in his position.
What a shame that we seem to be inundated with high-class left-backs when the rest of the defence looks a touch shaky. While the backline was rarely tested in qualification, there were signs in the home friendlies against Chile and Germany (and even Scotland) that there are weaknesses to be exploited.
If the defence creates an air of negativity and gloom then the midfield provides the antidote. Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are three supremely talented and confident young men who can all expect game time out in Brazil. It is Adam Lallana, though, who I am most excited about. He is highly regarded by Hodgson and is a player who has gone from a wildcard to make the squad, to almost a guaranteed component in England’s opening game against Italy on June 11th. Given his form for Southampton and his three appearances for his country, he deserves nothing less.
In attack, the only real issue was whether Hodgson thought Andy Carroll had done enough since his comeback from injury to force his way into the England squad. Alas, Rickie Lambert has got the nod instead, with Carroll subjected to the standby list.
Much attention will, of course, be paid to Wayne Rooney, who has another opportunity to show the world what he is truly capable of. A lack of match fitness and suspension has blighted his international tournament career ever since he burst on the world stage at Euro 2004. The news that he plans to take a physiotherapist on holiday with him will be well-received by just about every Englishman, as we look to him and the ever-maturing Daniel Sturridge to supply the necessary firepower for Roy’s boys.
All in all, this is certainly an exciting England squad, one which suggests that Hodgson has one eye on the future. Yes, there is a lack of experience but also a lack of tournament heartbreak and fear which can bear fruit. If you look at the German side of 2010 (that 4-1 humbling still hurts), there were few household names, yet a plethora of talent which had progressed from the under-21 side together. Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Muller all left South Africa with reputations enhanced and better players for the experience. One hopes the shackles are taken off our youngsters and they are allowed to express themselves as they have done domestically all season. I’ll end this blog with the words that are sure to be bellowed from living rooms and pubs up and down the country this summer…COME ON ENGLAND!
Squad in full:
Steven Gerrard (Capt)