Only six England players in Brazil will have previous World Cup experience after Roy Hodgson boldly turned to younger players who have impressed him with their spirited Premier League performances.
The oldest squad member is midfielder Frank Lampard, who turns 36 next month, while the youngest is 18-year-old defender Luke Shaw, who only made his international debut in March. Eleven members of the 23-man squad have made ten appearances or fewer for England, who open their campaign at the finals in Brazil against Italy on 14 June.
“Circumstances will prove whether the decision to take the younger players was right or not,” Hodgson said at the squad announcement at a car factory in Luton, north of London.
“You get experience by getting the opportunity. It’s wrong to focus totally on the fact there are those who are inexperienced because everyone is inexperienced until they get the chance to do the job. I think they’ve played so well and been so effective in their club teams that they’ve really imposed their ability on my thinking.”
Shaw, who is being pursued by Manchester United in the summer transfer window, displaced 33-year-old Ashley Cole from the squad to be understudy at left-back to Leighton Baines.
“He has had a wonderful season…and is capturing the headlines with his form and ability,” Hodgson said of Shaw.
Hodgson selected Celtic’s impressive Fraser Forster as third goalkeeper behind Joe Hart and Ben Foster, with John Ruddy of Norwich City placed on standby.
In a squad captained by 33-year-old Steven Gerrard, fellow midfielder Lampard made the cut whereas Michael Carrick, who went to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, is only on the standby list following a lacklustre season with Manchester United.
“Frank is a very important part of our set-up and you shouldn’t think about players in terms of age, but of position,” Hodgson said. “When you’re in midfield you have many more positions to choose from.
“Frank has been captain on many occasions and has been vice captain to Steven Gerrard. He still plays an important role for his club (Chelsea) and we think his leadership qualities and his abilities will help us in the summer.”
In the search for dynamism, Hodgson is taking 19-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, the 20-year-old Everton midfielder, despite having only five appearances between them.
“He’s a very, very exciting player, a very exciting talent and if he can continue at that level he has a very exciting future ahead of him,” Hodgson said of Barkley. “But I would hope people will temper their expectations of him.”
Hodgson has selected four strikers: Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool and Rickie Lambert of Southampton. Lambert, who has scored two goals in four England appearances, has pushed Jermain Defoe, who moved to Toronto FC earlier this year, and West Ham’s Andy Carroll to the standby list.
“I’m sure if I’d picked a squad after the final qualifier in October it would have looked quite different, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then,” Hodgson said. “You can’t ignore what people are doing on a week-to-week basis and your decision is based on who is the best man for the job.”
Hodgson also insisted he has no concerns over the mental state of his skipper Gerrard despite Liverpool’s agonising end to the season.
The veteran midfielder shone for the Reds this term and looked set to lead his hometown club to a first top-flight league title since 1990.
However, Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea last month played a key role in diverting Liverpool off track, seeing them fall to a 2-0 defeat – their first of 2014 – before eventually being pipped to the post by Manchester City.
The Anfield captain now has a week off before linking up with his England team-mates for the World Cup – a tournament former Liverpool manager Hodgson is confident he will be ready for mentally.
“I have no concerns whatsoever,” the England manager said. “I am very disappointed for him, of course, and I share his disappointment.
“I was very sad that he feels responsible for a mistake, which I think was not a mistake from him as an individual footballer but a moment in a game of football where he slipped over.
“Unfortunately, he slipped over at the wrong time and a goal was scored whereas in the game I saw when they played Manchester City, Vincent Kompany slipped, missed a header to give Liverpool victory and it could have been the other way round.
“I’ve got to say I’m very philosophical about these things. I know it is harder for the players to be, especially when you’re part of it.
“But Steven is very strong, he loves Liverpool but he also loves England. I do not have any doubts whatsoever that he’ll be as good as he ever was during this World Cup.”
ENGLAND WORLD CUP SQUAD
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Ben Foster (West Brom)
Fraser Forster (Celtic)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Ross Barkley (Everton)
James Milner (Manchester City)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Adam Lallana (Southampton)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
Rickie Lambert (Southampton)