England come full circle in Moldova
England return to Chisinau, Moldova, for the first time since 1996 where a certain David Beckham made his England debut, with England still pinning their hopes on the golden generation he heralded in.
Paul Scholes and Michael Owen were the next stars, before the golden triumvirate of Lampard, Gerrard and Cole were ushered in as world beaters on the back of their club displays. And yet after nearly ten years of underperforming on the most important of international stages England are still reliant on this generation of players.
Roy Hodgson promised changes after Euro 2012 and these extend to asking Michael Carrick politely enough to come out of self imposed retirement. Tom Cleverley and Ryan Bertrand are the only ‘youngsters’ of note new in the squad, after a limp and predictable exit in Poland and Ukraine. John Terry still marshals the defence, with a brand of prehistoric defending that is at odds with international football, and Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are trusted in midfield.
Appointed on a four year contract, Hodgson must be planning for Brazil in 2014 but the squad for the qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine will be staggeringly past their best in two years time. Terry will be 33, Lampard 36 and Gerrard 34 by the summer of 2014 and none of the three have shown an indication that they are likely to improve their form to be worthy of a place in the starting XI.
At least Hodgson has seen sense in jettisoning 4-4-2 for a more flexible 4-3-3 formation, favoured by international teams for the last eight years. Compared to the rest of Europe and much of South America, England produces technically deficient players and playing 3/5 in midfield nullifies the lack of technique, allowing England to more closely match opposition teams. England controlled play for approximately 30 minutes of Euro 2012, during the Sweden game, other than this period the technical superiority and confidence of the other nations saw them forcing the game on England’s finest.
England have little hope in the current iteration of the England squad, a generation which has failed to produce before and looks unlikely to develop into a competitive vintage. Here are three players who Hodgson needs to look at in the build up to Rio (assuming they get game time).
Signed by Manchester United in the summer for a reported £3 million plus add-ons, Powell looks like being one of the best talents to come from Crewe in years. Ferguson was shrewd enough to sign the 18-year-old before he scored this in the League Two play-off final and he has already been included on the bench for United this season. Dario Gradi believes Powell could be the most prestigious transfer in the club’s history and likened him to Eric Cantona, thanks to his ability to win games single handedly. Played as a number 10 at Crewe, he expects to drop further down the pitch at United and if they are hit by injuries he could get his chance in the centre of the park.
Southampton boss, Nigel Adkins, recently stated that his aim is to have a team built from 50% academy players. If the Saints had held on to the likes of Gareth Bale, Nathan Dyer, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wayne Bridge, Mike Williamson, Theo Walcott even Alan Shearer it could easily have been a reality. The latest product of their academy is 17-year-old Ward-Prowse, who Adkins trusted enough to hand him a start against champions, Manchester City. The central midfielder acquitted himself well against Yaya Toure and has seven Under-17 caps to his name. With his run in the Southampton continuing expect a step up the age categories.
Sterling has been the one bright spark in a disappointing start to Liverpool’s season and at the moment is preferred over Stewart Downing as the left winger/attacker in their 4-3-3 formation. Signed for £500,000 from QPR the 17-year-old made headlines last year after scoring five in a 9-0 rout of Southend and with Liverpool struggling for bodies in attack he should be set for a good run in the team. Sterling was overlooked by Stuart Pearce for the Under-21 side, but with regular Premier League exposure could soon earn a full cap.
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