Romanticism aside, Roy Hodgson’s select group of 23 players, the cream of English talent charged with the task of taking Brazil by storm, shows a glimpse into the future of the national team.
The exclusion of Ashley Cole has caused controversy. Arguably England’s best left-back over the years and a player with over 100 caps, the Chelsea man has now gracefully retired from the international stage. He bowed out with dignity, praising his replacements Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw; the former ready to stake his claim as first-choice, the latter his understudy.
Yet, further up the field it is the attacking element of the side that can cause problems for the opposition. Daniel Sturridge, who has had a great season with Liverpool, is a sure starter, but it is the position just behind the striker that is up for contention.
Wayne Rooney will inevitably start there; Hodgson lacks the tenacity to exclude the Manchester United forward from his starting XI. But if the 66-year-old really wants to focus on youth and the future, then he should put Everton’s Ross Barkley just behind Sturridge and consign Rooney to the bench. The 20-year-old’s performances and his stunning goal against Manchester City a fortnight ago are an example of what unshackled, talented youth could bring to England.
Having missed the final two games of the season, Rooney’s fitness has been called into question approaching yet another major international tournament where he has previously failed to deliver.
If Hodgson drops Rooney and opts for some of his younger stars – Raheem Sterling, Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sturridge – then England could be the surprise package.