So, England should be looking to win the World Cup in 2022? In case you missed it, this was the view of new FA Chairman Greg Dyke last week.
And it might not be quite as ridiculous a notion as it sounds. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is, after all, the best part of a decade away. Let’s not forget, nine years before Spain set off on their spell of sustained dominance, they were still renowned as perennial bottlers. Whilst the recent renaissance within the German game only emerged as a result of a ‘rip it up and start again’ approach following the teams dismal showing at Euro 2000, the benefits of that have only just started to show.
OK, OK. So maybe I am clutching at straws just a tiny bit. But with some proper direction and the implementation of some innovate policies, it is by no means completely out of the question.
Looking way, way down the line to the World Cup in 2022, if England are going to triumph then a host of young players currently emerging on the scene will make up the experienced core of the side. Of course, some of the players making up that squad will be going back to school in baggy pants this week.
But using what evidence we have, and having run the rule over some of England’s most promising youngsters, here is what that England World Cup winning team (yes, I said it) might look like:
(GK) Jack Butland – The heir apparent to Joe Hart? He has remarkable confidence and assurance for a goalkeeper so young and has been involved with the England squad for a long time now. There seems to be high hopes for the Stoke City stopper, and he will be at the peak of his powers come 2022.
(RB) John Stones – The former Barnsley man is a player who has found himself right in the thick of the first-team squad under new Everton boss Roberto Martinez. Stones has all the qualities that the modern game demands of a defender: He is tall, agile, intelligent, and composed in possession. His versatility is another key attribute, as he has shown himself capable of operating at both centre-back and right-back berths. He should come on leaps and bounds under the stewardship of his new boss.
(CB) Andre Wisdom – Wisdom has recently been anointed as the new captain of the England U21 side, and former boss Stuart Pearce had nothing but positive words to say about the Liverpool defender before he was relieved of his managerial duties. Wisdom has shown his versatility by operating across the back-line under Brendan Rodgers, but his performances at U21 level suggest he is at his best in the centre of the defense. He looks as though he can grow into a big player and a strong character for both Liverpool and England.
(CB) Phil Jones — The United man has been a victim of his own versatility in his early days as a top-level player, but looks set to eventually ply his trade at centre-back. The feeling is that Jones can be as good as he wants; all the attributes are there. Being so heavily involved in the national set-up already can only bode well for the future. If he fulfills his enormous potential, he will be a mainstay of the England central defense for many a year.
(LB) Luke Shaw – A raw, pacey and skilful left-back coming through the ranks at Southampton? I’m sure we’ve seen that before. Whilst it would be some feat for Luke Shaw to reach the same standard as his fellow Saints academy graduate Gareth Bale, the early signs are certainly promising. His fearlessness in possession and relentless running has thrilled onlookers already this season. A full, injury-free campaign should catapult Shaw into the reckoning to the England senior team sooner rather than later.
(CM) Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Someone that we’ve seen little of in terms of first-team action, but this lad looks to have the whole package. He is an athletic, physical presence in midfielder capable of picking a pass, putting in a tackle and driving his team forward. It is no surprise that Barcelona have been courting the Chelsea youngster, even at such a young age. Expect him to develop into a fine anchoring midfielder for club and country.
(CM) Jack Wilshere – Steven Gerrard recently said that Wilshere can be the heartbeat of the England side for the best part of a decade. That would see the Arsenal man as one of the senior figures in this side and – such is his contagious passion and drive – most probably as the England captain. Wilshere’s class is undisputed and if he continues developing there is no doubt he will be the main man in this set-up. Whether or not a player who is so injury-prone can maintain such a high standard for so long remains the only thing that can hold him back.
(CM) Ross Barkley – The Everton man has emerged as one of the Premier League’s most exciting youngsters in the early days of this campaign. He has tremendous vision, a marvelous football brain and the increasingly rare ability to strike the ball superbly on either foot. His red-hot early season form has seen him called up to the senior squad for the first time and his debut against Moldova will have given him a taste for international football. The manner in which he has taken his recent rise to prominence in his stride is arguably just as impressive a trait as his on-pitch ability. A wonderful talent.
(RW) Wilfried Zaha – The former Palace man dazzled us all with his showings towards the back-end of last season. He is a player who looks to have a strong mentality; one that will allow him to flourish in the big games. Zaha has so much ability, most of which is currently raw and untamed. But there is no better place than Old Trafford for Zaha to polish his style and that should see him become an accomplished winger, given time.
(LW) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – There were high hopes that the Arsenal man would have a breakthrough campaign this year. Especially after his performances in England colors towards the tail end of last season. Outings like his goalscoring display in the Maracana suggest the former Southampton man was ready to take his game up a notch. Injury has curtailed those hopes, but ‘The Ox’ remains one of England’s most promising talents. Expect him to give real impetus to the second half of Arsenal’s campaign and eventually cement a regular spot in the England side.
(ST) Saido Berahino – West Brom forward Berahino has been heralded as a promising youngster for a while, and he made an excellent impression in Gareth Southgate’s opening game as U21 manager; snaffling a goal in a 2-1 win over Moldova. He also recently netted a hat-trick in the Baggies League Cup win over Newport. With Steve Clarke’s men somewhat short of striking options, the Burundian-born forward could force his way into the first-team soon rather than later.
Substitutes – Jordan Pickford, Calum Chambers, Martin Kelly, James Ward-Prowse, Will Hughes, Jordan Ibe and Raheem Sterling
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball