Expectancy falls to England's Under 20s after Pearce's failure
By Cam Melling
After the failure of England's Under 21s in Israel, the nation's heavy expectations fall to Peter Taylor and his Under 20 age group. The Under 20 World Cup in Turkey, which begins on Friday, is a perfect chance for the young lions to redeem themselves across the world.
Stuart Pearce may have not been able to draw even a point from his side but Taylor has an even tougher task to progress in the tournament. On paper, their group, which includes Chile, Egypt and Iraq, may not seem a daunting task but there will be no easy matches in the group stages. Egypt were the African U20 champions this year, Iraq were runners up in last year's Asian U19 championships and Chile's side features a cluster of talented youngsters. Their squad includes Manchester United's Ángelo Henríquez who scored on his debut for the senior national side last November.
The main advantage that the FIFA U20 World Cup does have though, is that a third place finish in the group stages could be enough to qualify for the last 16. The best four teams out of the six who finish in third spot will make it through but England will be looking to their passage through to the knockout rounds a lot safer.
The twenty-one men tasked with restoring England's pride, all made their first appearance at under 20 level yesterday as they beat Uruguay 3-0 in a warm up match. Only Everton's Ross Barkley and Liverpool's Jon Flanagan have featured internationally at a higher level, both at under 21.
The squad is mainly made up of players from Premier League teams, yet to make their senior debut or have made appearances out on loan. Everton striker Chris Long, who scored against Uruguay, is yet to play a senior club game and the same goes for Manchester United's defender Tom Thorpe.
The squad is therefore relatively inexperienced but it will be the same for the majority of the other players in the competition with the more senior players either with the under 21 or senior squads. There are players like James Ward-Prowse and Gael Bigirimana for England however, who have Premier League experience as they made 15 and 13 appearances respectively in the league this year.
The squad features the most players from Everton, five altogther plus Sporting Lisbon's Eric Dier who spent a year developing at the Toffees. Since Dier's return to Portugal, he has become a regular in Sporting's first team, making fifteen appearances after playing seven games for the side's B team in the division below.
The teams for England to watch out for will undoubtedly be Spain who feature Liverpool's Suso and Portugal who were the runners up in 2011. This is because of the absence of both Brazil and Argentina, who are the tournament's most successful sides. Brazil were the winners in the previous competition two years but failed to qualify this year.
For England, their first game is on Sunday at 9pm local time against Iraq. If they can get off to a good start the woes of the under 21s will soon be forgotten. The Under 20 World Cup final is a long way away on the 13th July but who is to say England cannot got all the way?