Youngsters can be big part of England’s renaissance

Bright future? John Stones of Everton is one of the young players capable of emerging as an England regular in the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualfying campaign
Bright future? John Stones of Everton is one of the young players capable of emerging as an England regular in the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualfying campaign
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The blueprint for England’s future has been apathetically administered by Roy Hodgson in Brazil, but the Three Lions boss must respond with greater conviction in the final, dead-rubber Group D game against already qualified Costa Rica.

While standby options John Stones and Jon Flanagan signal evolution among the defensive ranks - ultimately usurping the underwhelming Glen Johnson and Phil Jagielka once the Caipirinhas have dried up - Hodgson should pave the way for Saints full back Luke Shaw after Everton’s Leighton Baines failed to seize his opportunity.

And the remainder of the squad needs to be meticulously scanned. Captain Steven Gerrard was a shadow of his former self in both Manaus and Sao Paulo - short of a third man in midfield to play the Philippe Coutinho that works on a domestic front - and it’s a certainty that Frank Lampard and Rickie Lambert will join the aforementioned casualty list once a World Cup post-mortem is held.

Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck should all play a prevalent part tonight in Belo Horizonte, while Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend and Jay Rodriguez should be called upon to join the more experienced heads of Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney in the nation’s renaissance at the European Championships in France.

The embryonic transformations from Hodgson have been bold. The dynamic has been improved, the demographic changed considerably. And in the end it was the more seasoned professionals that contributed to England’s worst showing at the tournament in 20 years when they failed to qualify for USA.

Defensive vulnerability afforded Claudio Marchisio an inexplicable amount of space for Italy’s opener, but Baines’s inability to cut out Antonio Candreva’s cross coupled with Johnson’s poor positional awareness allowed Mario Balotelli to drop in behind Cahill to head home the winner at the far post.

Against Uruguay, after Cristian Rodriguez threatened from Jagielka’s sliced clearance, Gerrard conceded possession in midfield before Edinson Cavani’s majestically delivered centre took no less than five Englishman out of the game, including the Everton centre-back who statically presented an unfit Luis Suarez the opportunity to peel off him and nod the opener.

And after Rooney’s equaliser - his first goal in a World Cup finals - Suarez was the executioner as he profited from Gerrard’s mistake, via Fernando Muslera’s punt upfield, to find the gulf between Cahill and Baines and fire past Joe Hart.

Those individuals will ultimately shoulder the burden for the respective lapses of concentration that proved consequential in England’s downfall. However, though Hodgson has helped the footballing nation advance from the sterility of South Africa 2010 under Fabio Capello, did the former Liverpool and West Brom boss structure the starting XI accordingly?

Hindsight is a beneficial strength when dissecting tactical flaws but Hodgson, though unequivocally supportive of the way he set up, had ample time to prepare the shape and personnel to stifle the obvious threats that the magnificent, age-defying Andrea Pirlo and the sublimely irrepressible Premier League player of the year, Suarez, would pose.

Pirlo’s mesmeric and captivating display, dictating play from deep with elegant ease, was harnessed by the Azzurri’s out-numbering of England in midfield with Marchisio, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti over-running Gerrard and Henderson. An extra man in the middle for the Three Lions was imperative.

Similarly, Uruguay’s narrow diamond infiltrated England’s scarcity centrally while Oscar Tabarez cleverly bolstered that cause by appointing Cavani to suffocate Gerrard, forcing the midfielder to appear claustrophobic in the restricted space.

That allowed Suarez to peel off in to pockets of space as Uruguay commanded the midfield battle. England, on the other hand, were just too predictable and rigid from a transitional and positional sense.

There’s been both good and bad to come from this World Cup. But there’ll be more clarity, more assurance, once Hodgson is able to step England out of this uncertain hinterland. By France 2016, many older professionals will have been cast aside - whether pushed or voluntarily - while the younger pool of players will have matured and formed the nucleus of the national side.

The fixture versus Los Ticos should be used to fully symbolise that tide of change.