England head to Brazil with a fresh and exciting squad

The twenty three men who will head out to Brazil to try and regain the World Cup may not be the best squad that England have taken, but are looking good for 2016...

In the end, Roy Hodgson’s England squad announcement turned out to be a bit of damp squib. By the time 2pm rolled around and the 23 men (and seven replacements) were officially named, everybody knew who they were.

In the age of social media and instant communications, the ability to keep the information under wraps has totally gone.

Once Ashley Cole had announced his retirement from International football on Twitter on Sunday night it confirmed that Luke Shaw had got the nod ahead of him as the reserve left-back, ending one of the few debates about the places in the squad.

The rest of the squad arguably ended up picking itself with even the most biased of football fans not being able to have too much cause for complaint with very few, if any, of the players who have been left out genuinely have a case that they deserved to go.

There was always a feeling that Hodgson did not want to be forced to take Ricky Lambert to the World Cup. But, with Jermain Defoe having effectively entered semi-retirement by moving to Toronto in the MLS, Andy Carroll having scored just twice all season and looking recently like a man who was playing for a holiday rather than a World Cup place, and injuries ruling out Theo Walcott and Jay Rodriguez, the England Cap was left realistically with no choice but to pick the Southampton man to complete his fairytale story from beetroot bottler to International footballer.

Defensively, the Manchester United pairing of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have not had the best of seasons, but a lack of alternatives at centre-half, plus there obvious versatility, made their selection inevitable. Both can play at right back and Jones can also play in midfield, and with the alternatives being John Stones, a man with only six months of Premier League experience; Steven Caulker, who was the captain of a relegated side that conceded 74 goals; or Ryan Shawcross, whose one cap for England showed he was not up the level required –  they both had to go.

The area however that might be of most concern to England fans is in central midfield with only Steven Gerrard, the England captain, being able to play in a holding and defensive role. The likes of Ross Barkley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will provide a youthful exuberance and an attacking drive, but if Gerrard was to miss a game through injury or suspension, then England would find themselves short of options in that position.

Michael Carrick may not have had the best season for Manchester United, while Gareth Barry seems to still be viewed as a scapegoat for the 4-1 loss to Germany in the 2010 World Cup, and while neither of them are the most exciting of players, what they would provide is some cover and balance in the squad in case of absences.

There is however an element of risk attached to the England squad that has been picked… Only six of them have played in a World Cup before.

11 of the player have 10 caps or fewer… Eight players would still technically be able to play for the Under 21 side… And by jettisoning the experience of Cole and Carrick it has arguably left England in a risky predicament if injuries and suspensions hit. It would be a big ask for Shaw to come in and play in a World Cup quarter-final for instance, when Cole could do that job with his eyes closed.

But the squad definitely has one eye on the future – particularly looking towards Euro 2016 in France. The majority of this squad will still be around in two years time – arguably only Lampard, Lambert and maybe Gerrard and Jagielka will be past consideration. The experience that this squad gains of playing tournament football can only help them in a competition that they are more likely to win; not just because of the quality of teams in the competition but also the conditions will be far more conducive to the brand of football that England will play.

No-one realistically expects England to win the World Cup this summer. Getting out of the group stage and knocking out Italy or Uruguay would be a good result, even if this is not the strongest Italian squad in recent times and the Uruguayan team does have Luis Suarez, but this is an England side that could reach another World Cup semi-final.

A last sixteen clash would be against Greece, Japan, the Ivory Coast or Columbia and could be winnable. All of those nations have strengths but also weaknesses and as good as they are, there are a lot worse draws that you could have in the last sixteen. The quarter-finals against Brazil or Spain (probably) would likely be the end for England, but unlike past campaigns, I think that would be viewed as a success.

The twenty three men who will head out to Brazil to try and regain the World Cup may not be the best squad that England have taken, but what there is with them is hope and excitement for the future.

England may not win the 2014 World Cup, but they might be a side worth watching, not only in Brazil, but for the future as well.

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