The list of 23 players heading to the 2014 World Cup for England was released Monday morning. The theme across the board is that youth has been served. Coach Roy Hodgson said that “a lot of water has passed under the bridge since October” as he had to look at how players are performing now. With the youth on his side, Hodgson hopes to coach them through the group stage, but it leaves the team susceptible to rookie mistakes.
The three veterans who will be asked to lead by example are Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Joe Hart. Rooney is off prepping with his own trainers after the Premier League season ended this past weekend. He has hit a little bit of a slump of late and has to form a new strike partnership with the young guys.
Meanwhile, Hart is probably still recovering from Manchester City‘s championship over the weekend. Gerrard has to recover from Liverpool just missing the title.
Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson have had great seasons, and both would have probably been left off if Hodgson named the roster in October. Luke Shaw, who is linked to a big-money move this summer, was considered a fringe player most of the season, but did make the final cut. Hodgson’s refrain is that he is not taking any players just for experience, and that all of the players named deserved to be on the field in Brazil.
A list of standby players were named as well. Jon Flanagan or John Stones may be plucked off that list as Phil Jones is in a race to get fit. Jones has two weeks to get fit before Hodgson makes a decision on whether to take him. The sentiment is that Jones will be removed and Stones will be added.
Jones’ injury and the inclusion of Chris Smalling bring into question the defense of the England squad. Smalling’s performance has been subpar this year. The midfield is stacked with talent, but the defensive cover will be shaky at best. This area is often where the rookie mistakes surface, and going against Luis Suarez will make proper play even more important. Here is the full squad:
Goalkeeper: Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Ben Foster
Defenders: Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw, Gary Cahill, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling
Midfielders: Frank Lampard, Adam Lallana, Steven Gerrard, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere
Strikers: Wayne Rooney, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck
Standby: John Ruddy, Tom Cleverley, Jon Flanagan, Andy Carroll, John Stones, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick
Veteran Ashley Cole retired from international play after being left off the squad. If the back line of England falters, many fans will point to his absence as a reason. The youthful squad will have to keep the focus on defense, which is easily their weakest position. Still, Hodgson remains confident in his answers about his squad, saying that he is happy to be at the wheels after a reporter asked if the team was a family saloon or a sports car.