With the world cup approaching quickly, I have decided to begin a series where I talk about each side competing in the world cup, discussing key players, young up and coming talents and their overall chances in Brazil this summer and where better to start than everybody’s favourite three lions, England.
For years now, the English nation team has been in decline, with many suggesting the amount of foreign players being brought into the Barclays Premier League, England’s top division, is denting the opportunities for young English players, however following a very long and interesting Premier league season, five of the PFA team of the year where English, with many other Englishmen, such as John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Raheem Sterling and Jay Rodriguez being very unfortunate to be left out. Chelsea’s strong centre half; Gary Cahill was joined by Southampton pair, Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana, as well as the impressive Liverpool duo, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard, the latter of which being England’s captain, within the team of the season.
Throughout the side, England fans genuinely have a reason to be optimistic (for once), starting from the back, where healthy competition is starting to improve Joe Hart’s form not only at Manchester City, but within the England ranks also. Hart had a tough beginning of the season, calling for him to be dropped by England manager Roy Hodgson, however since the turn of the year Hart has excelled. Although should any worries still be in the mind of Hodgson concerning Hart, then the potential replacements are promising, with Celtic keeper, Fraser Forester being Hart’s main competition for the gloves. The shot stopper has been in phenomenal form this season, conceding only 21 goals in 36 Scottish premier league matches, leading to calls from many fans suggesting that the former Newcastle man should replace Hart regardless of the current ability of the two keepers. Other players in the frame for a place are West Brom’s Ben Foster and Norwich’s John Ruddy.
Another area of interest for English supporters will be the centre half pairing chosen by Hodgson, as apart from Gary Cahill, a clear favourite is hard to identify to partner up with the Chelsea man. Many names could potentially be thrown into consideration, including Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, John Stones, Steven Caulker or Ryan Shawcross, however concerns with injuries, form or lack of experience would place doubt on all names above.
There are a number of young guns attempting to push their way into the English ranks; however three specifically jump out considering their performances for their respective club sides this season; Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley, from Liverpool, Southampton and Everton respectively. Sterling has been a gem for Brendan Rodgers ever since the Liverpool boss gave him an opportunity at the beginning of last season to shine for the Merseyside club. A lack of fitness and form at the end of lack season however hampered many fans opinion of him and his current ability, however his athleticism and increased eye for goal this campaign has made him all but a dead certainty to not only be traveling to Rio, but to hold down a starting berth also. Luke Shaw has been a name dotted around for the past couple of seasons as a hot prospect; however this season he has demonstrated maturity which is very rare of a young full back. His instincts in terms of whether to push forward or hold back is very impressive, and many are now suggesting that he should go to Brazil in place of one time best left back in the world, Ashley Cole. Finally, Ross Barkley, it has been suggested that he embodies the play style of Paul Gascoigne, and at only 20 years of age, the speed, strength, style and suave of the young Evertonians play cannot be ignored. Preferring to slot just behind a striker may not be preferable in terms of Roy Hodgson’s preferable 4-4-2, however as an option, Ross Barkley has to be taken as he offers a confidence and ability that not many can match in the England ranks.
The striking ability of England’s national team is regularly brought into heavy critism, due to Wayne Rooney’s seeming lack of form when it comes to playing for England, regardless of his form for Manchester United. However over the past two seasons Wayne Rooney has become a complete different prospect on the football pitch, dropping deeper to enable him to use his strength and bull dog way of running at defenders has enabled him to dictate the play of his side, whilst being partnered with a prolific front man at club level, such as Robin Van Persie, has enabled him to develop in terms of being able to be less selfish and take on a more captain role within a side; and who better to partner him with than Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, the former Chelsea and Manchester City man was thought to be done when he left the London side, constantly being pushed out of position on the rare occasions when given the opportunity to play, led to the frontman losing all confidence in himself, however Brendan Rodgers has once again worked wonders, with Sturridge contributing 21 goals in the premier league.
All in all, at 33/1 in terms of the betting to win the world cup, it isn’t looking too hopeful for England supporters; however I’m sure they won’t be overly disappointed as long as they don’t go out in penalties! (Or to the Germans)