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Post-World Cup lineups populated by young players

August 1, 2018

When Tottenham Hotspur F.C. and A.C. Milan took to the U.S. Bank Stadium field on Tuesday ahead of the 1-0 victory for the London club, 16 of the 22 players who started the game were under the age of 25.

For at least one coach during this International Champions Cup, so many youths and too few stars has been an annoyance.

During this summer preseason U.S. tour as part of ICC tournament, Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho has lamented both the quantity and quality of players for him to use, as many of his big names are still on a break post-World Cup. Hes even called on some to cut their vacations short in order to help the team prepare for the English Premier League opener Aug. 10.

Its a common issue for many of the top clubs in the world. Manchester sent 11 to the World Cup. Tottenham sent 12 and had the most players of any club in the World Cup semifinals at nine. Milan sent eight, since Italy did not qualify for the tournament.

But both managers for Tottenham and Milan arent fully agreeing with Mourinhos complaints.

Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino said clubs cant compromise the physical and psychological well-being of their players, who played competitive soccer for nearly 11 consecutive months. Instead, clubs should grant players time to spend with their friends and families and then just work hard to help them regain their fitness as soon as possible.

Its a reality we cannot change, Pochettino said. Of course, I understand him. But Im not complaining. I think we knew that that was going to happen. Its difficult to find a resolution because the players need rest, at least 20 days. They are not machines. You cannot negotiate about that.

Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso said in Italian through a translator that even if the heavy-hitters arent participating in this ICC tournament, there is still benefit for both the clubs participating and the fans watching.

Kids that are playing to great levels even though there arent any real champions, and what that does is, it gives them the opportunity to develop, Gattuso said, adding hes just sorry he hasnt yet been able to play all his young players. Its not all about putting out the champions. Its about giving the kids the opportunity to grow and to experience these levels.

Even if you see 8/11ths of Barcelona, its beautiful to see, Gattuso said, referring to the 2-2 draw in the tournament this past Saturday between FC Barcelona and Tottenham. The people that came to see the game in Los Angeles Im sure had a great time. So its not to be all thrown away.

Both Tottenham and Milan orchestrated several exciting chances in the scoreless first half Tuesday despite their relatively inexperienced lineups. Tottenham scored the breakthrough just after halftime in the 47th minute from 23-year-old Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, who played the latter half of last season on loan and has seen scarce playing time in the EPL.

And still 31,264 fans turned out for the exhibition game. A sellout crowd of 64,101 took in the ICC game two years ago when Chelsea and Milan broke in the new Vikings stadium.

Its fantastic to have this support, and if they show this passion for the game, I think its the most important, Pochettino said of the Tottenham fans in Minneapolis. We love to feel that, and of course concentrate and focus and do our job and prepare our team in this way to start the season. Its not going to be a distraction for us. I think its the opposite. When you feel a little bit of the passion from the fans, its a thing that we know and makes you responsible.

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