Football's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming...Or is it?
As Alessandro Diamanti's spot kick flew into Joe Hart's net this summer, Roy Hodgson's England packed their bags and headed to the airport as they were out of Euro 2012. To me, this signalled what I hope to be a transformation for the national team.
The country boasts 'the best league in the world' and although they have climbed to 3rd in the most recent FIFA world rankings, England have only ever won one major trophy, The World Cup in 1966.
2008 saw the German FA appoint Joachim Low as head coach, which would be the turning point of German football. Low would soon make a name for himself by introducing young talent into his squad, and his tactical awareness saw Germany qualify comfortably for Euro 2008, eventually finishing as runners-up to Spain. Low was not afraid to shake things up and put faith in his youngsters, and just two years later he was again proved right as the Germans finished in 3rd place in the World Cup, despite the much changed squad. This puts a rejuvenated Germany in a very strong place with a youthful, hungry squad who hold a desire to win, and they'll realistically be able to mount a serious challenge on the international stage for years to come.
Now look at England.
A friendly game against the nation that knocked Roy Hodgson's team out of The Euros, Italy, took place last night and prior to the game, I was asking myself 'what is the point?'. That was, however, until the team was announced. A nice surprise as a youthful looking side included players like Jack Butland, now England's youngest ever goalkeeper at only 19, Kyle Walker, Tottenham's 22 year old right back, 23 year old Tom cleverly and substitutes Ryan Bertrand (23), Steven Caulker (20) Jake Livermore (22) and new Manchester City signing Jackrodwell (21). If Hodgson continues to blood the youngsters then he can expect his side to flourish.
Another positive was the tactics.
Throughout the Euros, Hodgson preferred his 4-4-2 formation with Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker as the lone central midfielders. The problem with that is, when you come up against a disciplined team like Italy, who play with three central players, you can expect your midfield to be stretched on numerous occasions. James Milner and Ashley Young were expected to tuck in when the team were on the back foot, but in reality England struggled to compete in the middle of the field as Italy controlled the game, knocking The Three Lions out of the tournament.
2 months on and Hodgson started with a 4-2-3-1 in the friendly, the same formation as Germany now use. The more experienced players in the team, Michael Carrick and Frank Lampard, anchored the midfield while Adam Johnson, Tom Cleverly and Ashley Young played as the three attacking players, spearheaded by the stiff looking Andy Carroll. The benefit of playing this formation, is that when you attack, you have 4 forwards (in this case Carroll,Young, Johnson and Cleverly) supported by an extra midfielder (Frank Lampard) and then when you are defending they compact and you have a 5 man midfield, which makes it hard for the opposition to break you down.
The game finished England 2-1 Italy.
A small step in the right direction for Hodgson's men, as winning is a good habit to get into, no matter who your opponents.
England's World Cup qualification campaign starts next month against Moldova, and I'm hoping that Roy sticks with a team balanced with both quality and youth to progress to the finals, held in sun-soaked Brazil in 2014.
Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. All great players, but by the time the World Cup comes round they will be at the end of their careers and past their peak. Instead of a match to match approach, Why not fill a side full of potential, promise and hope to try create and mantain a legacy? England need their own Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, someone to build something and be patient with a change of philosophy. Whether or not this is Roy Hodgson, is yet to be seen. Most Importantly, The FA must stick with their man and allow the change of transformation, as he will have to get rid of some of the senior players that are currently involved, and may take some abuse from the press and supporters alike. In my opinion, these senior players have had more than their fair share of opportunity to perform at this level and with nothing to show for it, their time is up. The long term plan may have an effect on short term results, but this is just a small price to pay if England ever want to replicate the celebrations of 1966.
Will England win the World Cup in Brazil? No chance.
Will England win a trophy in the next 20 years? Possibly.
Will England be better off if the transformation happens? Certainly.