Can England win the World Cup? Probably not, and I feel much better for saying it. I think the rest of the country is waking up to the train of thought that we might just increase our chances by playing down the odds.
The expectation on the England squad that has preceded every major tournament, friendly or kick about in the park would have seen anybody crumble like shortbread in the reduced section. The atmosphere is more realistic this time around for two main reasons. We have been placed in a ‘Group of Death’, or at least one that would maim most teams. Also the England manager’s shrewd selection process has almost turned this tournament into a shot to nothing.
I almost completely agree with Hodgson’s final squad in that he has based the selection on the season’s performances rather than their surnames or previous accolades. The system seemed to be stuck in a vicious cycle with the same under performing millionaires seemingly jogging around for 90 minutes daydreaming about the 11 star hotel in Dubai they’ve booked.
The inclusion of a large Liverpool and Southampton contingent finally shows faith in the talented young players we do possess. Yes with youth comes inexperience but more than anything you are rewarded with enthusiasm and confidence. Two of the main attributes lacking from our last few major tournament group of players.
It was the English core of players (plus the hopefully crocked Uruguayan Luis Suarez) that provided many of Liverpool’s greatest moments. Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Daniel Sturridge all showed class and consistency in a dynamic set-up under Brendan Rodgers. In Paul Scholes' humble opinion Gerrard and Henderson could be key in the middle of the park with the captain taking up the “quarter-back” position he has adopted with his club and the youngster displaying a long lost “workmanlike” quality that hasn’t been a part of England’s last few set-ups.
This was mainly because, like a child with a bucket full of square pegs and round holes, we couldn’t accept or understand why Gerrard and Lampard wouldn’t fit. Henderson’s work rate should allow the more incisive players such as Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling to really play without fear.
For me the only question marks would be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. After a frankly appalling season for the Red Devils it does show the scarcity of choices for those utility
positions that can be crucial especially in the later stages when fatigue sets in, although we have to get there first. The inclusion of Micah Richards would have been insulting to the players who have actually kicked a ball this season. I would have swapped Jones for Flanagan as neither can really play centre back and the Liverpool player’s performances this season have been full of tenacity and vigour.
Barring that, Hodgson’s choices have opened up the possibility of some exciting attacking football without the mental burden of a nations hope. England fans’ apathy may just be
the refreshing tonic our boys need.
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