Why Youth is Key to England’s World Cup Hopes

England must put faith in it's younger players in Brazil

England must put faith in it’s younger players in Brazil

For any international football fan, especially a world cup lover, the squad announcements are a key moment in the narrative of a World Cup- none less so than this years.

Some international squads have already been named. Brazil’s  squad, named by Felipe Scolari on Wednesday, had very few surprises. Indeed he kept with his “family feel” including players that he has worked with personally in the past (Lazio defender Henrique, who featured in Scolari’s Palmeiras side), as well as including players of the likes of Julio Cesar, Paulinho and Hulk- severely under-performing at club level, but certain starters for Felipao!

Klose will once again be an option for the Germans, having once more being named among their twenty-three and on the verge of a World Cup goal scoring record, the 35 year old will also hope to be engraving his nations name into the trophy- something that has eluded them ever since unification.

And so to England...
England’s squad announcements have often caused varying degrees of surprise and controversy over the years- from the inclusion of a young 16 year old Southampton youth-academy starlet by the name of Theo Walcott, ahead of  a very in-form Jermaine Defoe, to Glenn Hoddle choosing to drop Gascoigne from the France ’98 squad.

So what can we expect from Roy Hodgson selection this monday?

We can expect the omission of Terry and Ferdinand. Despite Terry having a relatively decent season under Mourinho, Roy Hodgson hasn’t selected him in his last 5 England games and I don’t expect him to select him at this point, despite him probably being our most consistent performer.

What should we hope for from Roy on Monday – put faith in the younger generation.

Sterling, Chamberlain, Shaw, Stones, Butland, Townsend are just a few of the youngsters who will be  praying on Sunday night of a dream-come-true call-up from Roy. Let’s be honest, if they don’t (and probably never will) get the chance to play a World cup in England, where better than the most football loving country in the world?!   I will be praying with them; as I believe Roy must put his faith in such names ahead of “the old guard” of Cole, Lampard, Ferdinand and Terry.

For many, it is down to the belief that “We have nothing to lose, we aren’t set-up to win the tournament, so we might as well give the youngsters an invaluable experience”. Indeed that is a view advocated by former England forward Gary Lineker.

For better or for worse, I am a dreamer and I always will be. Despite knowing that logically it would be seemingly impossible for England to win the trophy here in Brazil this July, the young child within me- self commentating his dribbles and shots in my muddy back yard many years ago (let’s be honest, I was out there doing the same last weekend…), wants to believe that anything is possible…and why not? This is football, better still, it’s the World Cup.

Why a younger squad will stand more chance of success in Brazil.

In the space of ten days, England will play in three very different cities, in three very different climates, very far from each other and against very different opposition….it already sounds exhausting.

Their first game will be against a very solid Italy side in the Amazonian city of Manaus. Despite June and July begin winter months

With just weeks t go, fears remain over the construction of the stadium in Manaus

With just weeks to go, fears remain over the construction of the stadium in Manaus

in Brazil, Manuas is in the jungle. It’s hot and worse than that, it’s humid. The pace of the game slows, fluids are lost rapidly and breathing becomes heavy- don’t expect a world class game from any of the matches in Manaus- it will be a dog fight and more about stamina and fitness than experience technique. That’s why youth could be key. In 90 degree heat, in the 90th minute with Balotelli chasing down a threw ball, who do you want on his tail: Ashley Cole with his zimmer-frame or the electric pace of Luke Shaw? As our first round match enters extra time and an exhausted Gerrard has to come -off and you need to inject some energy into a tiring team, who would you choose? An aging Lampard Junior or the sprightly Adam Llalana?

It’s all about Location, Location, Location.

You see the thing about this world cup, in stark contrast to many others (Germany, S.Africa or even France), is the games are played over huge distances- sometimes the equivalent of flying across Europe- therefore the advantage doesn’t always lie in who you are playing, but where you are playing and where you are based.

England have based themselves in Rio, sensible enough with only one of their group ties in the Amazon and the rest more to the south of the country, Germany in all their efficiency have actual gone ahead and built their own training camp, in an ideal location for all games ( do you ever get the feeling they fancy their chances this time around?), but Italy have also based themselves in Rio, despite all their matches being in the hot, humid North of the country, being 6 long flights in the space of ten days. If Italy do make it out of e group phase, I imagine they won’t be making it any further…

So indeed, in the interest of the future, in the interest of us dreamers, but more importantly in the interest of logic, I implore Roy Hodgson, please give the youth a vote of confidence and take. Fitness will be key.

Below is a snapshot of the squad I think should be going:



Count down to kick-off, stadium worries and Argentina’s prayer


Curitiba stadium, one of the host stadiums faces a nail-biting completion phase

-PAECAMBU, SAO PAULO.  Today marks 95 days until the worlds greatest sporting event kicks-off here in São Paulo, Brazil.

The anticipation is certainly growing: Television advertisements now somehow all relate to the competition or national side, flags have already been appearing in car windows, from apartment balconies and in Avenida Paulista  huge digital clock has been erected to count down the minutes remaining until the spectacle gets under-way.

Shortly among many of the neighborhoods, streets will be painted in the national colours- it’s a long tradition in the favelas during every world cup, but having not had the world cup for the last 60 years, now on home soil the preparations will likely be even more colourful.

There are still minor concerns overshadowing what FIFA’s Sepp Blatter had hoped would be a “clean and quick preparation phase”. There are questions around infrastructure, transport and accommodation, but the biggest issue giving organizers sleepless nights is the readiness (or lack of) of some stadiums. Most notably the Curitiba stadium Arena da Baixada is today, with only 100 days left until it’s first tournament game, considered only 94% ready.

Should FIFA declare games unplayable and Arena da Baixada not ready before the event, it would mean the designated games in Curitiba begin moved to other stadiums. Not ‘the end of the world’, but a headache for the logistics teams of national sides already arranging accommodation and transport and of course for the committed fans who have already purchased tickets and flights.

Elsewhere, here in Brazil all remaining focus turns to the Selecão (national side) and the few remaining undecided positions. That maybe includes a goalkeeper, a central midfielder ..and a goalkeeper.

Julio Cesar, the former Queens Park Rangers and Inter Milan keeper, moved to Toronto FC of the MLS in what many have considered a desperate move to get some games under his belt ahead of the tournament. Cesar remains first choice for Felipão, however, having been dropped from the first team and even demoted to third choice under Harry Redknapp   at QPR, Cesar jumped at the opportunity of first team football in Canada.

Up-front, the question remains who will support Neymar. Fred, Hulk, Jô, Pato, Luis Fabiano are all of course in the running, but Felipāo’s main concern will be keeping Neymar fit and sharp. Pele, Brazil’s greatest player and Ronaldo Phenomino, the player who almost single-handedly won Brazil’s last World Cup triumph against Oliver Khan in Germany, have both described Neymar as the worlds greatest and certain to take the stage this summer and Scolari will be praying on it.

Across the border in Argentina, the Argentines are praying for a most different fate for Neymar; a national right-wing paper has replaced it’s header-strip with a prayer for Neymar. However this is no prayer to wish the Barcelona star great success in June, instead they ask readers to “take a moment to bring injury to Neymar”.

You see, Argentina fancy their chances in this tournament. It is likely they could have one of the easiest paths to at least the semi-finals and they see Brazil as their biggest obstacle to bringing the trophy back to Buenos Aires.

This behavior would no doubt be lamented anywhere else and despite being met with much tension in both strongly Catholic countries of South America, it is somewhat unsurprising…
The rivalry between these countries runs deeper than any I have witnessed in international football.

95 days and counting, and it will be gone in the blink of an eye…