England faced France on Tuesday night at Wembley in an emotional tie following the tragic events in Paris. The home nation won 2-0 in the friendly, which was organised as part of their lead up to the European Championships in France next summer. Despite the tie being a friendly, the young English stars that were given a chance by Roy Hodgson did impress.
Hodgson fielded the youngest England side since 1959, with six of the starting eleven players under the age of 22. The youngsters included John Stones, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Harry Kane. The young lions all gave impressive performances, with Alli claiming the man of the match award after notching his first goal on his first senior international start.
The inexperience of the England midfield and forwards was shown as Cahill and Kane were joint-second top-scorers, after Rooney, with only three international goals. Due to the great number of injuries to first team regulars, the younger players were given an opportunity that they took advantage of. After showing Hodgson what they are capable of against an elite opposition like France, they may have given their manager something to think about.
With Euro 2016 quickly approaching, Hodgson will have an idea of the squad he would wish to take if everyone is fit. However, with the younger players like Alli and Stones performing well in the league and when given the chance on the international stage, Hodgson could take a gamble on them.
Dele Alli has now got three man of the match awards in his last three starts, with two goals. After becoming a solid member of Tottenham’s starting eleven, Alli has become a more confident player, who is comfortable as an all-round goal scoring and hard working midfielder. Alli is becoming a player that could work successfully and efficiently in Hodgson’s favoured 4-3-3 formation alongside Wilshere and Henderson.
Additionally, John Stones played brilliantly against France, allowing minimal attacks, but also bringing the role of a ball-playing centre-back to the side, which has not been seen since Rio Ferdinand. Stones plays similarly to the former England defender, as he plays to his strengths through his pace and distribution. With vice-captain, Gary Cahill, out of form this season with club side, Chelsea, Stones could make a claim to start for England in the next international fixtures in March to prove to Hodgson that he capable of containing oppositions like Germany.
Without wanting to get carried away, I think England have a great core of young players in their squad, all of which could put in great performances at the European Championships. They are all players who have played big games in one of the most competitive leagues in Europe and most of them have played in a major European cup competition.
The lack of international experience is not an issue for the England squad, as the players just need to be confident and play to their strengths. With fast players on the wing, we are able to hit teams on the counter like we have done in the past. However, with a 4-3-3 formation, we should not just sit back and accept being dominated, but we should be self-assured in our performances and try and control the game in the midfield.
In my opinion, if our young players continue their form, they should be given the opportunities. Players like Smalling, Stones, Barkley, Alli and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all given minutes by Hodgson but are unlikely to be starters. However, these are players who are in great club form, always give 100% in their performances and are not afraid when facing a tough opposition.
Young players are always brimming with confidence and we should not rule them out of helping us in our quest for European glory due to their age or because a player in average form has been starting for the side for years.
Next year, our young lions could become kings of the European jungle.