Why England’s young World Cup team is the right choice

Why England’s young World Cup team is the right choice

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Gareth Southgate has been bold and sensible at the same time in naming his 23 men to carry the nation’s hopes at this summer’s World Cup.

The manager himself believes “this is a squad which we can be excited about”.

The excitement might be a couple of fireworks short of a party at this stage, but that is not Southgate’s fault.

There is no standout ‘will he won’t he’ story along the lines of David Beckham and Wayne Rooney’s metatarsals (2002 and 2006 respectively).

But England do have potential stars. Just about every club in the world would sign Tottenham goalscorer Harry Kane if he were available and affordable.

And pacy attackers like Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard would worry any defence.

However, if 52 years of hurt since England’s one and only World Cup win have finally dampened the levels of expectation, well hallelujah.

It may even help.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, among others, have explained how the suffocating pressures of representing England adversely affected performance.

That ought to be less of a problem for this inexperienced squad, who the bookies rate about 16-1 seventh favourites (which feels about right).

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is in, despite the voices suggesting that it is too much too soon for a 19-year-old in his first full season of top level football.

The right choice. If he is good enough to help Liverpool to the Champions League Final, then he is old enough for England.

Resisting the calls for Fulham’s 17-year-old Ryan Sessegnon also makes sense. His time will come, but this did feel a step too far for a boy who has not yet tasted Premier League football.

The goalkeepers? Leaving out Joe Hart, with his 75 caps, when the three preferred to him have only nine between them?

Bold but correct. On form, Hart did not deserve to go – and picking on form rather than experience is exactly what pundits have longed called for (and which is a bone of contention for England cricket and rugby selectors also).

The one choice which does feel slightly odd is that of Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana among the five standby players.

A favourite of Southgate’s, he would surely have been in the 23, had he not been injured for most of the season.

But surely he is now either fit enough (put him in the 23) or he is not (leave him out altogether)?

But that is a minor quibble.

It would be hard at this stage to be confident of predicting Southgate’s starting 11 for the opening match against Tunisia on 18 June.

That is no problem in itself. The same has often applied to Germany, which has never done them any harm.

And it certainly applied to England in 1966, which also turned out just fine.

No one is suggesting that Southgate is on course to emulate Sir Alf Ramsey.

But he has proved that like Sir Alf, he is forward thinking, happy to place trust in youth and unafraid to make bold choices.

(c) Sky News 2018: Why England’s young World Cup team is the right choice