World Cup 2014: Hodgson Shouldn't Make a Sentimental Choice with Gerrard

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

England national soccer team captain Steven Gerrard, left, speaks flanked by head coach Roy Hodgson, right, during a press conference after a squad training session that was closed to the media for the 2014 soccer World Cup at the Urca military base in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014.  Costa Rica's surprise 1-0 win over Italy on Friday meant that England made its most humiliating exit from a World Cup since 1958, following consecutive defeats by the Italians and then Uruguay in Group D.  England play Costa Rica in their final Group D match on Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Roy Hodgson is in a pretty delicate position ahead of England's final game at the 2014 World Cup. In some respects, their encounter with Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte is a meaningless encounter. So the England manager has the opportunity to experiment a little and play the youngsters in the squad to give them a little tournament experience.

However, while the response to England's exit has perhaps been a little more muted than in previous years, that might change if England are beaten by Costa Rica on Tuesday.

Felipe Dana/Associated Press

The close defeats might be excused, given that they were at the hands of a very good Italian side and a Uruguay team boasting one of the world's finest strikers. However, even though Costa Rica will go through to the second round, quite possibly as group winners, an England loss will not be acceptable.

England's first-ever return of zero points at the World Cup might not be greeted with quite as much charity or understanding.

Still, that should not dissuade Hodgson from picking the likes of Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere on Tuesday. The FA have confirmed that Hodgson's position is safe, and he should thus not be cowed into selecting the same players simply because the criticism might be louder if he takes a risk.

And judging by his pre-match comments, Hodgson does indeed intend to take a look at some of the "next generation." Quoted by Matt Law in the Daily Telegraph, Hodgson said:

I’m going to be picking the team for Costa Rica with a view that all the players who are with us get some minutes on the field.

I will be changing the team to give others a chance to show what they can do.

It’s not purely planning for the future and not purely sentiment. It’s to give players a chance to go home from this World Cup too early, bitterly disappointed but to be able to say they weren’t here to make up the numbers, they actually took part.

It was interesting that Hodgson mentioned sentiment, because there could be a large dollop of that particular emotion involved in one of his other selections.

Steven Gerrard maintained before this game that he hasn't made a decision on his international future, as reported by Will Mott on, but the signs are that he will retire from England duty in the coming weeks.

Gerrard himself hinted as such earlier in the tournament, as per another Law report in the Daily Telegraph, while Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers alluded to his potential retirement last season, quoted by Sky Sports as saying:

If you go to a World Cup in Brazil at 34 years of age, you might not have many more championships left in you. Very few players do. I can think of (Javier) Zanetti and (Paolo) Maldini who have played on late, but it's rare...

For Steven, he probably looks at it as though this is his last international year and after the World Cup, that will be all finished and he will have time to rest.

The chances are that Gerrard will retire, so there will be an understandable sentimental pull for Hodgson to select him for what will be his final international against Costa Rica.

However, Hodgson must not allow such sentiment to cloud his decision-making. For one thing, Gerrard has hardly earned another game at this World Cup, with two rather anonymous performances against Italy and Uruguay.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

But more importantly this game is essentially the first match of England's preparation for Euro 2016. The first qualification match against Switzerland takes place in September, but with this World Cup over and done with, this is a valuable time for Hodgson to look at alternatives to his 34-year-old captain and see how they perform on the international stage.

Hodgson has made clear that the other players in his squad will be given a chance against Costa Rica, and he should not jeopardise that with a sentimental decision over Steven Gerrard.