The media circus should please gather around as we announce the arrival of, erm, Wayne Rooney and England on the world stage! British reporters have been waiting to shout this statement, well the latter part, to the rest of the world.
There will be no SAS (Sturridge and Suarez) nor SSS (Sturridge, Stirling and Suarez), no. What England will make do is a bunch of ‘kids’ and a ‘leader’, Wayne Rooney.
The 28-year-old Manchester United utility man is a handful on his day, and his versatility in midfield or behind the main striker will be an asset for the Three Lions. The former Everton youngster scored 21 goals in 46 appearances this term in a shambolic season for the deposed EPL Champions. Wazza, as he is known to his peers, is in his third World Cup and will be looking to banish memories of being red-carded in the tournament (2006) and not scoring a World Cup goal yet.
Like their media-propped superstar, England’s history in the World Cup is not so glamorous for a country claiming to be the birth place of the game itself. They have reached eight of the last nine World Cups, won it once in 1966 — some 48 years ago — and they have made the semi-finals only once after that, in 1990 in Italy.
However, the presence of a calming influence on the bench is a welcome distraction. A coach who has taken much of the English national set-up out of the media glare should be praised, and Roy Hodgson deserves it. The 66-year-old journeyman took Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup in USA (a tournament England missed) and brings conservatism to the side.
Qualification for Brazil 2014 was fairly smooth with no loss, but stumbles against Ukraine and Poland. The most welcome part of Hodgson’s reign is his trust in youngsters. Raheem Stirling, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw all join established names in Captain Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill, Glen Johnson, et al. The inclusion of Shaw at the detriment of veteran Ashley Cole did not spark media frenzy, surprisingly, but a failure in Brazil will see English Samba drums in full effect.
It is hard to see the strength of a Hodgson team, as usual, but England’s chances will be hugely boosted if they can conjure up a tactic that can accommodate both Rooney and Sturridge starting up top. Also, the experience of Gerrard as the ‘quarterback’ will be immense, while presence of speed will be a quality asset as the opposition tire out at the end of games.
You can never pick the weakness of an English team because it will self-destruct at some point. However, the effect of taking unfit players to the world cup will remain to be seen. Meanwhile, Hodgson’s overly cautious tournament approach could starve the forwards of service and in trying to move into midfield, will hurt the opposition less. They also concede more from set-pieces, corner especially, while they don’t utilise their set-piece opportunities.
Young squad? Unpredictability? Don’t be alarmed. This is just another way of the English media trying to shell out stories and blow the English flute like it’s a trumpet. Maybe the English media and fans should pray another harrowing penalty shootout is not in the offing, or that the Germans are not lurking around the corner.