The eve before England’s final match of the 2014 World Cup, Roy Hodgson rather boldly reveals a total of NINE changes, for their dead-rubber match against Costa Rica. Included in this ‘weakened team’ are young Manchester United starlets Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
The nation will be counting on England to restore some pride to their country by beating a very good side in Costa Rica, who were considered the ‘minnows’ of Group D. Everybody has had an opportunity to dissect the England performances, and the general consensus is: the attacking talent shows promise; but major issues at the back. Although the fixture has no bearing on England’s fate, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will not have played a match of such importance for their country.
The Costa Rica game is about the bigger picture. England are going through a transition phase (where have I heard that before?), where our ‘Golden generation’ failed to deliver on the big stage. This fixture is a platform for the likes of Smalling and Jones to show the nation, and the world, they are good enough to make the step up. A solid performance from the United duo will help them to cement a starting place in England’s future major tournaments. A poor performance, and the English press will never let them forget it.
The past two years have allowed Smalling and Jones to ‘test the water’ and fill in when Rio and Vidic were not fit. This season, for club and country, will determine whether they truly become ‘United Greats’ or ‘Part-Bit’ players that eventually get sold off to lower league sides.
Will Smalling and Jones become United greats at Old Trafford?