Webster: Give youth a chance

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

In 1967 the Scottish national team traveled south to Wembley and a date with Auld Enemy, England.

Led by an inspired Jim Baxter and a fired-up Denis Law, the Wembley Wizards, as they became to be known, tore England apart, inflicting the first loss on the World Cup winners since they had won the trophy the previous June against Germany.

The Scots immediately crowned themselves world champions!

On Saturday, at the ‘new’ Wembley, England beat current world and European champion Spain. Does that mean…?

Friendly encounters are notorious barometers of where a team currently stands and this match certainly falls into that category because a full strength England team doesn’t look like the starting XI that began this match, does it?

I mean, according to conventional wisdom, England was missing its spine, wasn’t it?

Could it be that circumstances are playing into Fabio Capello’s hands and that by being forced to make changes, he is discovering a new England or is it a case that it’s really the ‘same old’ England and only the faces and names on the shirts have changed?

Thanks to the impending three-match summer suspension of Wayne Rooney, manager Fabio Capello is using these matches to look at other attacking options. If he’s half the manager he thinks he is, it would have taken him about five minutes to figure out he has no other options.

In midfield, the Italian was again without the occasionally talismanic Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool star hasn't worn the Three Lions shirt in almost a year now due to an assortment of injuries and you’d have to say that, given the current formation, Gerrard wouldn't be getting a game anytime soon. Unless he can recapture the form of 2005 his days as the dynamic engine room of England’s midfield are over.

England midfielder Jack Rodwell (right) tracks Spain's Santi Carzola. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Lastly, the Italian’s logical first choice center-back pairing of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand has seemingly seen its last days. Thanks to injury (mainly Ferdinand), we've only seen them together on the pitch once since May 2010 and that is when a very average Swiss side ran them ragged at Wembley in a 2-2 draw.

With Terry cooling his heels on the bench, the four players most identified with the national team since the departure of David Beckham - and the four players who are considered to be world class or ‘almost’ world class - were not on the park as England recorded their most famous win since beating Argentina in a friendly prior to the 2006 World Cup (and we know how that turned out).

All right, I realize I may be getting slightly ahead of myself as Spain looked like they were comfortable playing the match in third gear as opposed to fifth. However, third gear was still impressive.

In my opinion they bossed the match pretty much from start to finish. Their passing was hypnotic. Their attacking movement was dizzying and their pressing suffocating. In fact, if they'd worn their finishing boots, they would have inflicted on England their worst home defeat since the Magical Magyars (Hungary) led by Ferenc Pukas in 1953. But they didn’t.

Phil Jagielka was one of England's shining lights at Wembley. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

England, with one of the most inexperienced teams you could ever field, hung on, rode some luck and may have stumbled across a blueprint of sorts for beating this beautiful Spanish team.

One - we all know you cannot compete with the ‘tiki-taka’ of Spain but if you maintain a solid central shape and don’t go chasing the ball around, everything has to be perfect for Spain to break you down. Anyone who has played this game will tell you perfection is almost impossible to achieve.

England showed discipline, concentration and patience. It isn’t pretty to watch and the knowledge that one simple mistake can undo everything is terrifying but you’ve got to tip your hat to the resilience of the team.

Two - when Spain pressurize in the attacking third, they do it better than anybody, but on a couple of occasions, England managed to break out. The key was a simple, direct, positive pass. Admittedly, they failed to achieve this on multiple occasions due to technical deficiencies and the excellence of Spain’s pressing game but when they succeeded, they looked very dangerous.

Capello would have taken note of these small mini victories and hopefully come to the same conclusion as me.

England should jettison the old guard (except Rooney). A guard, that promised so much but delivered so little and move ahead with this new-look side. A team containing experienced heads but sprinkled with youthful zest and players who are not weighed down by their own hype.

This team has just beaten the kings of the world. The king is dead, long live the king.

(England face Sweden in an international friendly on Tuesday, and you can watch the game live on FOX Soccer Plus from 2.55pm ET)


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