Too early for Rio 2014 predictions? Never!

As England finished off their first round of World Cup 2014 qualifiers with a draw against the Ukraine, let’s take this opportunity to predict who will knock England out in Rio two years from now. I jest, of course, but every major tournament brings with it so much promise for the Three Lions and every time it seems we are eliminated in increasingly spectacular fashion. Hammered by the Germans in South Africa, Pirloed a couple of months ago, the infamous Rooney balls stamp of2006 and Beckham’s red card in 1998.

I digress, and if we are talking here and now England, then their path to Rio is looking relatively straightforward. Poland and Ukraine aside, there isn’t much standing in their way at all with Montenegro and renowned football nation San Marino making up the rest of the group.

So, what about the squad?

Starting from the back, Joe Hart, injury permitting, will be England’s number one from now until Rio. The back four, though, could undergo many changes between now and 2014. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry will be 34 and 33 respectively by the time the tournament starts and both have experienced more injury problems as they have grown older. It is very possible that Terry and Ferdinand won’t be the two first choice centre backs come 2014 (despite Hodgson’s preference to older players) and Lescott with Jones/Cahill looks the more likely centre back pairing for the future. The ageing Ashley Cole could soon be replaced by Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson still doesn’t seem to have any competition at right back despite the whole of England pleading for Micah Richards to be called up.

The Gerard/Lampard England midfield axis has, on the whole, been unsuccessful. They are too similar to work cohesively as part of a midfield unit. Additionally, it looks as though they are both heading towards international retirement. Lampard may make it for Rio but Gerarrd now tends to be off the field more than on it. Tom Cleverly will receive more caps as the team prepare for next World Cup and, hopefully, he will gain sufficient experience during the qualifiers.

On the wings, it looks as though Hodgson favours Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, using the 19 year old heavily during his short tenure. Oxlade-Chamberlain has the potential to be England’s new bright young star and the more Hodgson selects him the more his confidence will grow. We can’t forget that Walcott is still very young, too, and his pace always makes things difficult for opposing full backs. 

Wayne Rooney and Darren Bent both have experience and proven goal scoring records at domestic and international levels. If I were Hodgson, this would be my first choice strike partnership up front with Andy Carroll and the promising Welbeck coming off the bench.

There is a bright future for England and, with Hodgson at the helm, there is a possibility to develop and cultivate the young talent at an international level. Hopefully, by the time Rio 2014 comes around players such as Cleverly and Oxlade-Chamberlain will be ready to display their full talents on the big stage.

So, considering all this, I predict that England will do quite well. At a push, I will say they will reach the semi-finals and Oxlade-Chamberlain winning the Golden Boot. Of course, that is quite a bold statement with the tournament not being until 2014, but the experienced players that are already there can supplement the up and coming young talent that will form the next generation of England teams.

For more Football Blogs and opinion from football fans around the world