The kids are all right, Roy. Glenn Hoddle
It will be embarrassing for England if they head home with no points, bottom of the group and the worst World Cup record since 1958. England must beat Costa Rica this evening to restore some pride - and self-belief. But it won’t be easy.
Roy Hodgson needs to risk another defeat to give some of his best youngsters a starting berth and to reward some of the players in his squad who don’t want to go home feeling they just have been along for the ride.
The future is bright with so many talented youngsters, although the system needs to be modified to produce far more. But for now England need two things from the Costa Rica game:
- Blood more youngsters to give them valuable experience going into the Euro qualifiers.
- To get something out of this campaign.
I expect we will see Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana starting against Costa Rica at least. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have but for his knee injury.
So today’s final game is an opportunity to give the new generation a much bigger taste of the tournament. I appreciate Roy will be under pressure from the FA and from the fans to get at least one result to take home, to lessen the present embarrassment of the worst record for such a long time, but the FA have got to look at the bigger picture.
This match should be viewed by Roy as a “freebie’, a chance to blood Shaw who hasn’t had a kick yet, and Barkley and Lallana.
Frank Lampard made the point about England not wanting to go home without a win because they feel they are better than that - and pride is at stake - so Roy Hodgson has a difficult balancing act, as he needs to put out the youngsters to give them valuable experience but he also needs the likes of captain Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard and the experienced players to support them.
Personally I do not want this evening’s game to be the last for Gerrard and Lampard – I really hope that they continue – but I have always believed in bringing on young players for England. I felt for the England manager with the cruel injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain. Before the tournament in France in 98, I lost Jamie Redknapp and Ian Wright, while Darren Anderton was the only ‘iffy’ player who needed to prove his fitness. Well, there was also Paul Gascoigne, of course.
We all know the circumstances of Gazza’s injury in the warm up game just before I had to select my final squad. I told Gazza to take it easy and just play one or two touch to release the ball quickly so he wasn’t caught in any tackles. But, Gazza being Gazza, he got excited, forgot his instructions, and started a dribble that I just knew was going to come to grief - indeed a great hulk of a defender clattered him.
From that instant I knew Gazza wasn’t going to recover in time for selection - it would have been a huge risk carrying his race to get fit into the tournament.
Darren came through his fitness tests with flying colours. I know he was cruelly nicknamed ‘Sicknote’ but he was actually a very, very fit player, one of the fittest we had in the England squad! He was in the top three when we tested the players’ fitness levels. But Darren had a lack of match play at the time and it was crucial he came through and he did before I chose my squad.
As an England manager it is a horrible feeling to be in the position Roy found himself with Oxlade-Chamberlain and, of course, it is horrible for the boy as well. It’s the worst kind of preparation, as it disrupts the team planning, particularly as the Arsenal player was doing so well and proving to his manager he could be trusted if given a starting place in his World Cup team.
He showed great pace, picking up the ball from deep and covering plenty of ground, he gets you up the pitch which is so important and one of his great strengths and he has versatility because he can play as one of a three in midfield or out wide. But while he will play no part in this tournament, just being here will benefit him.
The big players have largely turned up at this tournament.
I went for Argentina to win here and the way it’s taking shape I feel they are replicating what happened when I played in the World Cup in 86. I felt Argentina were a very, very average team, with a couple of good players and one genius - Diego Armando Maradona.
Watching Argentina in the Maracana for their first game, and then the other night, it’s a replica of ‘86, a very ordinary team but one genius - Lionel Messi. He’s not even playing at the top level as yet, although he did play well against Bosnia (in fact he was awful in the first half especially giving the ball away virtually all the time) but he has produced one moment of magic in each of Argentina’s two games, and he has two goals.
Eden Hazard did it for Belgium against Russia, setting up the winner in the last minute with a lovely ball cut inside. These players are producing and when I look at Messi I see a player who has been focused on this tournament for some time. The timing in his career is interesting, as he has not done it in the World Cup before yet comes into the tournament on the back of a lacklustre, injury hit season.
Just wait until he starts to hit top form.....