England (for once) doesn't expect at Euro 2012 but will that help ease the pressure on the Three Lions?
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FIFA Ranking: 7
Best Finish at European Championships: 3rd Placed (1996)
Fixtures at Euro 2012
Monday June 11
Donetsk: France v England (17:00)
Friday June 15
Kiev: Sweden v England (19:45)
Tuesday June 19
Donetsk: England v Ukraine (19:45)
Top Goalscorer in Qualifying: Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young (3 Goals)
It will be Roy Hodgson and not Fabio Capello that will be taking charge of England at Euro 2012, with the West Brom manager leaving The Hawthorns for a new role as national manager. He has had little time to select a squad and prepare his team for the European Championships, although he remains confident that the Three Lions can get out of the group stage.
England have been drawn alongside France, Sweden and Ukraine in Group D and while they are expected to reach the knockout stage, it is unlikely that they will head home with the silverware.
How They Qualified
England negotiated the qualifying Group G with an unbeaten record, but Fabio Capello’s men were largely uninspiring during the eight-game campaign. They opened with victories over Bulgaria and Switzerland before being held to a goalless home draw by Montenegro, but they bounced back in the next game with a win over Wales.
Another disappointing Wembley outing saw them held by Switzerland, but they again responded on the road with a 3-0 win in Bulgaria. England completed their home fixtures with an unimpressive win over Wales, and a 2-2 draw in Montenegro was enough to ensure their passage.
When Roy Hodgson was sacked as manager of Liverpool FC eighteen months ago, he cannot have imagined that he would eventually be taking charge of England at Euro 2012, although West Brom opted for the 64-year-old as a replacement for Roberto Di Matteo and Hodgson's stock has once again risen back to the levels he enjoyed while in charge of Fulham.
Now he has selected a 23-man England squad that can do the country proud at Euro 2012, with Hodgson likely to pair Gary Cahill alongside John Terry in the heart of the England defence, while Andy Carroll may well deputise for Wayne Rooney in those first two group games which will see the Three Lions face France and Sweden.
Wayne Rooney has often been the focal point when it comes to England’s chances at a major tournament, but the Manchester United striker is yet to truly deliver on the biggest stages in international football despite him being regularly ranked in the same bracket as the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He flopped badly at the 2010 World Cup with a string of disappointing displays – with his most notable contribution being a rant at supporters after he left the field following a game – and he will not get much time make an impact in Poland and Ukraine.
Rooney saw red in England’s final qualifying match after stupidly kicking an opponent, and he was hit with a three-match ban that ruled him out of the group stage and left Fabio Capello pondering whether or not to leave the forward at home.
An appeal successfully reduced the suspension to two games, meaning Rooney will appear in the final group match, but he could find himself on the outside looking in if the Three Lions have performed well without him.
England squad for Euro 2012
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Richard Green, (West Ham Utd), Jack Butland (Birmingham City)
Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), John Terry (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott, (Manchester City), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton), Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), James Milner (Manchester City), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham).
Expected Starting Team
Hart, Johnson, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Parker, Gerrard, Milner, Walcott, Young, Carroll
Captain: Steven Gerrard
Penalty Taker: Steven Gerrard
Top Team Goalscorer Tips
It seems absolutely ridiculous that Wayne Rooney can be a top price of 6/1 at Stan James to England’s top goalscorer at Euro 2012 despite the fact that he will miss the opening two matches of the tournament. But who else is capable of scoring for the Three Lions?
The obvious answer is Ashley Young, who netted the only goal in a recent friendly against Norway and is 7/1 at Blue Square. The Manchester United star was joint top scorer in qualifying and, in the absence of Rooney, will be played further forward in the opening two matches.
However, it is possibly worth chancing Steven Gerrard at a generous 9/1 with the same firm. With Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry both missing there is no chance that the captain will be dropped for any matches and he will be the one midfielder asked to push forward and support Andy Carroll. Gerrard will also be in charge of all set-pieces in Ukraine and, with Young’s ‘ability’ to win penalties, that could be crucial.
No surprises from England. A few underwhelming performances in the group stage before being knocked out by a side who are technically superior.