International football is both loved and loathed, and people have their reasons why, but for me, nothing compares to World Cup fever and the nation coming together, despite it’s inevitable disappoint, as an Englishman. Nevertheless, like they often do, England qualified fairly easy, yet did so in fairly boring fashion as well. But they did so with a young side, which reminds you of something, right?
Yes, the golden generation, they touched nothing golden however, but individually, there wasn’t many, if any national teams that boasted better players than England did during the noughties. In the last 20 years, every successful national team had an era which got labelled a golden generation, which in turn, brought trophies. Brazil we’re blessed with a dream team in their 2002 World Cup success. Soon after came an Italian generation who dominated almost everything both at club and international level, which brought along the World Cup in 2006. Then most recently the Spaniards created maybe the shiniest of golden generations from 2008 until 2012, when they finally became good after decades of disappointment winning everything. But, in the mist of all that was a golden generation of English talent, who on paper, probably bettered most nations. Overpayed? 100%. Overrated? Arguable. Underperformed? Truer words have never been spoken. So with the likes of Harry Kane, Delle Alli, John Stones, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and a few others all under the age of 25, how does England’s generation compare to other nations this time round?
I mean, if Greece can win the Euro’s in 2004, the same year Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Owen, Neville, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand and even a young, fearless Wayne Rooney where all available for selection, surely we have a chance with this lineup? So let’s look at the current top nations’ generation and determine the next golden generation of world football.
Considering Italy’s golden generation brought them a World Cup in 2006, and they have since failed to get out of the group stages at the competition ever since is quite embarrassing, it shows just how good Italian football once was, and how poor it has become. They’ve gone from the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Fillipo Inzaghi, Francesco Totti and Del Piero to Simone Zaza, Ciro Immobile, Stephan El Shaarawy and Marco Verrati. They still boast some wonderful talent all under the age of 26, in Dominic Berardi, Lorenzo Insigne, Verratti, El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi. There is even a new Gianluigi between the sticks, in Gianluigi Donnarumma, who at 18, will soon be taking over perhaps the greatest ‘keeper of all time, Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon has been Italy’s goalkeeper since he was 20, Donnarumma, was still two years off even being born at that not point. It’s been a good 12 years since we seen an Italian side look so dominant, and this current generation dont look like changing that.
The Germans don’t necessarily need a batch of world class players to strike fear into other nations, because they’ll still somehow get far in an international competition, regardless of who they have. They just seem to ooze class regardless, so if I was a German, I wouldn’t be to bothered. This is a nation that turned Miroslav Klose into the greatest World Cup goalscorer of all time, a man, who at club level, was no better than Jermaine Defoe. It’s not necessarily a golden generation of German footballers, yet their still the defending World Champions. Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and other big names are approaching their thirties, Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger and other legendary names are gone, but likes of Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich are bursting through. To be honest we’ve just come off the back of a German golden generstion, and four years ago before the 2014 World Cup, Mario Goetze was the most talked about youngster in European football, then he went onto score the winning goal for his nation, now, he’d be lucky if he makes the bench, I think that tells you all you need to know about this Germans generation.
The most successful team in the history of the sport, not many nations have played and perfected the definition of the beautiful game quite like Brazil. However, other than Neymar and Philippe Coutinho, it is hard to call this a golden generation of Brazilian football as we approach Russia 2018. Especially when you consider their last golden generation consisted of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Robinho, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and many more. Brazil, as always, are bringing through top quality players. Neymar has the world at his feet right now, their aren’t many better than Coutinho, and Gabriel Jesus is already looking like a future Premier League great. But other than that, Brazil are way off their usual superstar lineups.
Four years ago you probably would of said we’re living in the mist of an Argentinian golden generation, with Lionel Messi breaking every record known to man, and the likes of Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuian and Javier Mascherano also performing extremely well throughout Europe. It was all going to plan for the two time world champions, as they entered the final and the golden generation of 2014 had a chance to touch gold once again. They lost, and four years on, Lionel Messi is still Lionel Messi, and Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuian have only gotten better, but when these three are gone, other than Paulo Dybala, Argentina don’t have many world class players coming through, and nobody under the age of 25 are representing big clubs in Europe. It’s an ageing Argentina team with current youngsters breaking through still yet to get out of the Argentinian league. 10 years ago, Argentinian youth players flooded Europe, and now, some of them as old as 25 can’t break through. It doesn’t look to promising for Argentina, especially considering they qualified by the skin of their teeth, if it wasn’t for Messi, they wouldn’t even be at Russia 2018.
Historically, Belgium have never been a big name in football, and they never frightened the top teams. But, as early as 2010, all of a sudden countless Belgium wonder-kids started popping up all over France and England. We are definitely living in the mist of the greatest era of Belgium football we’ve ever seen. Four years ago at the World Cup in Brazil was the start of this golden generation of Belgium football. Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard Romelu Lukaku all considered some of the worlds best and are still under the age of 27, plus the recent addition of youngsters like Youri Tielemans, Yannick Carrassco and Divock Origi, makes the Belgium’s one of the big names after all, and they are living our their first ever golden generation.
We got a taste of France’s new team when they hosted the Euro’s two years ago. Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and co looked untouchable until, somehow, a player who played for Swansea at the time, scored and broke French hearts in the final. Since then, French youngsters have took over Europe even more. Kylian Mbappe, Ousemane Dembele, Thomas Lemar, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Aymeric Laporte, Adrien Rabiot, Corentin Tolisso, and Benjamin Mendy to name just a few, have solidified the next golden generation of world football. Mbappe is only 18 and is playing like he’s 28 and been doing it at the top level for years, likewise with Dembele who is only a year older. In the wake of all this, you might forget that Anthony Martial is still only 21, Pogba 24, Griezmann 26, Raphael Varane 24, Alexander Lacazette 26, and Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman is only 21. There almost isn’t enough room for the experienced Real Madrid goalscorer Karim Benzema, who is still world class and only 29. It seems like in the last three years we have witnessed at least two French youngsters burst onto the scene each year. It just one of those times for the French when they find countless young talent, to which their almost spoilt for choice right now, and other than Hugo Lloris, and Benzema, all these stars are under the age of 27. France aren’t just going to be a threat in Russia, but probably for the next eight years as well. Plus, now that PSG and Monaco are considered amongst the best in Europe, the French league is finally on the rise and the players are endlessly coming through.
Spain had the most golden of golden generations ever witnessed by winning back to back Euro’s and a World Cup from 2008-2012. However, the days of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol and David Villa are over. A few world class names are still present from that era but don’t have long left and there doesn’t look like there are too many replacements. I mean, it’s silly to assume after the most dominant period in European football history, that Spain we’re just going to produce the same level of talent again. However, their are many world class youngsters in the Spanish national team already, with the top clubs in Spain still bound to produce great players. However, other than Isco, Marco Ansensio, Thiago and Morata, there are not many golden players around right now who look set to dominate for years to come. Gerard Deulofeu, Saul Niguez and Koke are all potential great players, but the Spanish don’t come close to the French in both ability and the capacity of young players. Other than David De Gea, Spain are struggling for defensive players for the future also.
England and A grades don’t really go together, as they haven’t won anything since 1966. But England have always produce A+ players, which looks set to continue. The three lions previous generation was star studded from 1-11, or maybe 2-11, sorry David James. Some of the best in the world donned the England crest. Back then David Beckham was probably the most famous man on planet earth, and wasn’t half bad at kicking a spherical object either, nobody could stop Wayne Rooney, and you would have to look far for better centre midfielders than Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes. But this time round, it’s not quite as impressive, and i think if Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford weren’t present, England’s future may look as bleak as it’s past. Regardless, in England, quality youngsters are still coming through. For example; you’ve got to put up a pretty good argument to justify why Harry Kane is not the best striker in world football, and only Isco and Marco Ansensio put up a good test against Delle Alli in the number 10 role, for players under the age of 26. In terms of defence, the days of Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are long gone, and if the likes of John Stones, Michael Keane and Phil Jones are going to get anywhere near that level, they’ve got an awfully long way to go. Despite this, England are well covered with youngsters at the back. Danny Rose and Luke Shaw are no Ashley Cole just yet, but are still two very impressive left backs with a lot of potential. England’s youngsters are not the next golden generation of world football, but individually, there are some great players. Same old really.
A lot of nations bringing through heaps of talent, some better than others, some have more than others. But no nation can boast the capacity of sensational young players like the French can. Despite their dominance so young at club level, only time will tell on the international stage.