It’s been a rough four years for this motley crew.
— England (@England) May 12, 2014
In the 1460-odd days since these men were selected to represent England on the world stage, five have retired from international football, three have ended their playing careers altogether and Joe Hart has just decided to become really, really bad.
Perhaps even more shockingly, only five of Woy’s 2014 boys have made it into Gareth Southgate’s squad for this year’s World Cup. If a time travelling England fan skipped the last four years to take a sneak peek at who was on the plane to Russia, they’d have questions galore. How has Ross Barkley become such an afterthought? Why has Luke Shaw’s career stagnated? WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO DANIEL STURRIDGE?!!!
That’s not even mentioning the confusion they’d have over some of the players that are selected. In 2014, you would’ve been forgiven for thinking Nick Pope was the guy who did the weather forecast on Channel 5 or that Trent Alexander Arnold was the MP for Kensington.
It’s not just England that have had an unforeseen makeover in the last four years. Germany have not selected Mario Götze, the man who scored their World Cup-winning goal in 2014. Brazil have left out Oscar and David Luiz. Italy haven’t even bothered to turn up.
If this tells us anything, it’s that it is bloody difficult to predict what’s going to happen in football. So often the stars of tomorrow become the flops of yesterday. A handful of good performances is enough to convince us that a young talent is destined for greatness.
We’re all guilty of it – ten years ago, I was certain Carlos Vela would become a world-beater. Now, I don’t even know who he plays for; I’m not even certain that he ever existed. Was he just some abstract imaginary friend I created in my early teens? We can’t be sure.
When it comes to making predictions for future World Cup squads, you’re best off expecting the unexpected. If you’re going to forecast a future star, pick someone showing next to no sign of potential. Don’t be lured in by the hype behind Ryan Sessegnon or Jadon Sancho. You only stand to look foolish when they’re salvaging their careers on loan at Sheffield Wednesday in four years time.
When Qatar 2022 rolls around, I expect to see a Three Lions squad full of unfamiliar faces ready to let us down and disappear into obscurity all over again.