With the European Championships less than three months away, there’s reason for England to be optimistic ahead of their short journey across the Channel.
Although the World Cup in Brazil two years ago was an unmitigated disaster, there have been plenty of positives for Roy Hodgson’s men since – particularly the 100% winning percentage during the qualification campaign that saw them seal their place at France this summer.
Most pleasing, perhaps, is the form of the squad’s younger members. John Stones has earned rave reviews for his performances at the heart of Everton’s defence this season, alongside international teammate Phil Jagielka. The former Barnsley centre-back has caught the eye of some of the world’s greatest teams and has long been linked with a transfer to Manchester City to work with incoming manager Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard is believed to be keen on Stones’ composure in possession and ability to build from the back.
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Dele Alli’s meteoric rise this season has been phenomenal. This time last year he was helping MK Dons secure promotion from League One – having already sealed his move to Tottenham Hotspur on deadline day last January. Now he is one of the brightest talents in world football. His dynamic, energetic style of football – further encouraged by Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino – adds drive to the heart of midfield and could be crucial to England’s hopes in June.
Fellow Spurs teammate Eric Dier has been revolutionary in a holding midfield role at White Hart Lane having initially struggled at centre-back and full-back. Like Alli, the former Sporting Lisbon youngster has flourished under Pochettino and looks certain to be one of Hodgson’s key men in France.
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His ability to break up play and retain possession has played a key part in Tottenham’s success this campaign – and he’s also proved that he has an eye for goal too.
It’s been a big season for Ross Barkley at Everton too. After an indifferent campaign last time out, the Goodison Park favourite has set the Premier League alight this year and will surely be given a chance to show what he can do in the upcoming friendlies against Germany and Netherlands. He seems to glides past players with consummate ease and can find the net from distance too. Comparisons have been made to two famous Pauls: Gascoigne and Scholes, can he live up to the expectation?
In Harry Kane, England are fortunate to have one of the most clinical and natural finishers in world football at the moment. The Spurs striker is in a real purple patch and Hodgson will be hoping that the 22-year-old can maintain that form this summer.
Kane has already reached 20-goals for a second consecutive season and must surely lead the line for England – regardless if Wayne Rooney is fit.
In addition to this fledgling crop of starlets, Joe Hart adds experience and is among one of the best goalkeepers in world football. Jamie Vardy’s Roy of the Rovers tale knows no bounds and his blistering pace will terrify defenders. Plus, with Rooney set to be fit for the start of the competition, the England skipper can generally be relied upon to provide a moment of magic.
For all the doubters who claim there is no English talent coming through – there is, and they have an excellent chance of causing a major upset at the tournament.