After one of the most enthralling Premier League campaigns in years, an excited nation turns its attention to the World Cup which kicks off in Brazil in a little over four weeks. With only the Football League Play-Offs and FA Cup final left to wrap-up the domestic season, England boss Roy Hodgson has announced his 23-man squad to board the plane to the Rio base camp.
With England fans’ expectations at an all-time low, Roy Hodgson has opted for youth over experience in an attempt to take advantage of the country’s seemingly slim hopes of success. Combine the lack of media pressure with a fearless, youthful squad, and we might – just might – find a winning formula and be pleasantly surprised this summer.
Despite the retirement of veterans John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, Hodgson’s bold decision-making means tried-and-tested old boys such as Michael Carrick, Jermaine Defoe and Ashley Cole all miss out. In an apparent policy of fledglings over fogies, starlets Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Raheem Stirling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will take their place and play an integral part in the tournament after hugely impressive seasons.
Due to remarkable campaigns from Liverpool and Southampton this season, joining Stirling and Shaw will be Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert and, of course, the experienced Steven Gerrard who is dead-set on overcoming his Premier League woes.
On the young-looking squad, Hodgson said: "You get experience by getting the opportunity. It's wrong to focus totally on the fact there are those who are inexperienced, because everyone is inexperienced until they get the chance to do the job . I think they've played so well and been so effective in their club teams that they've really imposed their ability on my thinking. I'm sure if I'd picked a squad after the final qualifier in October it would have looked quite different, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
He added: “You can't ignore what people are doing on a week-to-week basis and your decision is based on who is the best man for the job. This is a 23-man squad, we're not talking about 11. In that 23 there are an awful lot of caps. We should not get hung up that there are youngsters in there. I am not taking anyone purely for the experience."
And who can argue? With the inclusions of consummate, experienced professionals such as Frank Lampard, Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney - who is taking a private medical team on holiday to ensure he's fully fit - the squad is perfectly balanced to cause some shocks at the FIFA World Cup.
England will warm-up with a friendly at Wembley against Peru on 30 May, before travelling to Miami to acclimatise to the humidity and play Ecuador on 4 June and Honduras on 7 June in two friendlies. England’s first game in Brazil will be on Saturday 14th June against the mighty Azzurri – Prandelli’s Italy.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City).
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Southampton), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United).
Standby: John Ruddy (Norwich City), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), John Stones (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (West Ham United), Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC).