David Beckham called on England manager Roy Hodgson to unleash his squad’s emerging youngsters at the World Cup.
Hodgson has selected several gifted prodigies including Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley and Luke Shaw for the tournament in Brazil and former England captain Beckham believes the coach shouldn’t be afraid to throw them into the fray in Brazil despite their lack of international experience.
Liverpool winger Sterling, 19, Everton midfielder Barkley, 20, and Southampton left-back Shaw, 18, have just 12 caps between them.
But Beckham himself burst onto the global stage as a 23-year-old at the 1998 World Cup in France, scoring on his first start in the competition against Colombia.
And the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder is convinced England would benefit if Hodgson puts his faith in a new generation of exciting talent.
Speaking at a charity event in London on Monday, Beckham said: “People talked about how we’ve got young players going out to a World Cup, to one of the biggest competitions in the world, and are young players up for it? I’ve no doubt they’re up for it.
“These players play in the biggest leagues in the world. They play against some of the best players, some of the biggest players, so without a doubt, it doesn’t matter how young they are, it doesn’t matter what age they are.
“They’re prepared, they’re ready for it. You can see the good thing about having young players go into a competition is the fact that they’re not scared.
“Young players are not scared to go out there and perform and play for themselves and play for the team, and so they’ll be ready.”
After years of underachievement at international tournaments, there is little expectation that England will win the World Cup for the first time since 1966.
They have been drawn in a tough group featuring Italy, their opening opponents on Saturday, Copa America champions Uruguay and Costa Rica.
But Beckham, who won 115 caps and played in three World Cups, is upbeat about England’s chances in Brazil.
“Yeah very optimistic,” the 39-year-old said. “Obviously I’ve been to a few myself and I know that going into a World Cup – I always believe going into any World Cup or any big competition that I used to go in as a player – that you can go all the way, and our players will be doing exactly the same.”
If England are to defy the critics in Brazil, they will need a strong showing from Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney.
Rooney has struggled at previous World Cups, failing to score in eight appearances in the competition, but Beckham is confident his old England team-mate will rise to the occasion this time.
“Wayne proves himself every time that he steps out on to a football field,” Beckham added.
“At the end of the day Man United might not have had a great season but he has had a great season.
“He performed well in almost every game. and every time he puts an England shirt on you know it means something to him.”