Every season is viewed as an opportunity for young players but for young English players, this year there is the added incentive of a World Cup and the chance to represent their country on the biggest stage. Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen all represented England at major tournaments as teenagers and here we look at just whether any of England's current crop of youngsters can make it on the plane to Rio (providing England qualify, of course)...
Ross Barkley - Everton
A supremely talented central-midfielder who began to break into the Everton first team at just 16-years-old, Barkley seems to be thriving under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez and was rewarded for his good start to the 2013/14 season with his first England cap against Moldova. England possess a wealth of talent in central midfield and with Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick all currently ahead of him, he will have to put in some sterling performances this year to warrant a call up.
Wilfried Zaha - Manchester United
A tricky winger who showed in the Championship last year just what an exciting talent he is. Capable of scaring defenders with his skill and pace, Zaha has the potential to be a huge star on the international stage. His move to Manchester United, though, may hinder his chances of selection, with manager David Moyes under pressure to perform it is unlikely that Zaha will feature prominently in the Premier League.
Raheem Sterling - Liverpool
A winger who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old, Sterling possesses all the abilities to be a top-class international winger. He also has the most first team experience out of any player on this list, having played 42 times for Liverpool's first-team. If he can replicate his form from the early part of last season, then Sterling has a real chance of getting a seat on the plane to Rio.
Andros Townsend - Tottenham
This pacy wideman has benefited from a number of loan spells before establishing himself in the Tottenham first-team at the start of the 2013/14 season. Offering something slightly different to Sterling and Zaha, Townsend likes to cut in from the right onto his left and shoot as opposed to the more subtle approach applied by the other two. Townsend will have to perform superbly over the next few months to warrant a call up to the World Cup.
Luke Shaw - Southampton
This young left-back, dubbed the next Gareth Bale, is a huge talent, shown by the fact that he has already featured 31 times for Southampton at the age of 18. Strong, quick and explosive going forward, Shaw is destined to become a key player for both club and country in the future. The World Cup in 2014, however, may be two years to early for the player, who may require more Premier League experience before making the step up to international football.
All of these players look extremely promising talents and will surely feature extensively for England over the next ten years. In terms of the World Cup, however, it appears that Barkley and Sterling are the players most likely to gain a call up, with their extensive first-team experience acting as an advantage against the other players.
Equally, the heavy competition for a position on the wing means it is unlikely that more than one young winger will be chosen to go to Brazil, and with Sterling possessing the most Premier League experience, he is the most obvious choice to travel to Rio. If Barkley can produce performances on a weekly basis at the same level he has started the season at then surely Roy Hodgson will have no choice but to consider him for his World Cup plans.
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