World Cup heartache could be the catalyst for England’s new generation

Before the stars of the England squad begin their summer holidays, their final assignment is Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley. While England’s Head Coach, Fabio Capello, looks to select his side to face the Swiss, there will be a number of players with particular points to prove.

Among the 23-man squad is Manchester City winger Adam Johnson. Having impressed in his first few months at City, following his move from Middlesborough, Capello selected Johnson in his provisional 30-man World Cup squad. However, despite impressing with his domestic form, it was not enough to sway the England boss who overlooked Johnson for his final 23. A year on, with changes being made following a disappointing showing in South Africa, Johnson finds himself back in the England fold. Johnson has twice found himself on the scoresheet in qualifying so far, with a goal in the reverse fixture against Switzerland to follow his strike in the previous game against Bulgaria in September. When asked about his previous international disappointment, Johnson insists the setback has motivated him to earn greater success in an England shirt in the future: “Maybe in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise for me, a bit too soon after coming out of the Championship. But it has certainly helped me drive myself on even more.

Another player previously on the fringes of the international setup also comes into the current squad with goals in recent matches. Darren Bent, having made his England debut five years ago, finds himself with only nine caps to his name, despite regular success in front of goal in the Premier League. However, with the likes of Emile Heskey retiring from International football and Michael Owen seemingly cast into the international wilderness by Capello, Bent has found himself moving up the pecking order. Having also been left out of the World Cup squad last summer, Bent had continued to produce in front of goal, both for Sunderland, where he began the season, as well as for Aston Villa, following Bent’s big-money move in January. Having finally netted his maiden goal in an England shirt, joining Johnson on the scoresheet against this weekend’s opponents in the previous meeting, Bent went on to score in a friendly against Denmark, as well as the opening goal in England’s 2-0 away win in Wales. With Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe absent for this weekend’s clash due to suspension and injury respectively, Bent will be hoping for another chance to impress.

As England continue to look to the future after a disappointing campaign, the inclusion of those previously overlooked may well prove crucial to England’s development. With the likes of Johnson and Bent overcoming their personal disappointment to seize their latest opportunities, the emergence of such options will be welcome additions to future England squads, as Fabio Capello looks to build towards next year’s European Championship finals.

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