Now we know what you are thinking – here we go again. Build
them up for a big fall. But maybe, just maybe, England could surprise us all in
Poland/Ukraine. Here are five reasons why the Three Lions could win Euro 2012.
1. Roy Hodgson is England Manager
Before all you Harry Redknapp/Liverpool fans out there laugh, have you stopped for one second and had a look at Roy Hodgson’s international record? When England take to the field against France it will be Hodgson’s 81st time to lead a country in an international match. That is more than all three of the other managers in Group D – combined. England will be Hodgson’s fourth international side having managed Switzerland, Finland and UAE. It’s his record with Switzerland that made the footballing world sit up and take note of the 64-year-old’s talents – including Inter Milan. Hodgson took the Swiss to the 1994 World Cup, losing only one game during qualification, from a group that included Italy and Portugal. At their peak while managed by Hodgson, Switzerland were rated the third best international side in the world. The new England boss has the crucial experience of managing a side at a major tournament, something Redknapp lacks. He has shown in the past that he can get the best out of players who – shall we say – are not in the “world class” bracket so the England job may just suit the former Liverpool boss.
2. Case for the Defence
International tournament football is rarely end-to-end action with 4-3 score lines every second game. It’s not Premier League football. It’s about winning – nothing else. So to achieve this, it’s probably best not to concede many goals. During qualifying England had the joint second best defensive record of all the teams – granted England only played 8 games. When Spain won the World Cup in 2010 their results were as follows: 0-1, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0. Not exactly a goal a minute games – but that’s what it takes. So who will be England’s defence? Joe Hart is a walking certainty to start all three group games after a fine season with Manchester City. We think Hodgson would have been significantly impressed by Chelsea’s recent defensive display at home to Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League Semi Final – difficult not to be. So we suspect John Terry and Gary Cahill will play centre half and Ashley Cole left back. All three are members of that Chelsea back four. Right back seems to be favouring Young Player of the Year, Kyle Walker so all in all it’s not a bad start to build a fountain for a tournament winning side. Ask Liverpool fans and they’ll tell you that Hodgson is, by nature, a very organised and defensive coach which may just suit this English side. Greece did it at Euro 2004 so why not England?
3. Expectations anyone?
Are there any? England have hired a manager 37 days before the start of the tournament. For the first two games of the tournament, they will be missing their best player in the form of Wayne Rooney. Their young gifted midfielder – Jack Wilshere – is out of the tournament with a long term injury. So for the first time in a twenty odd years, England go into a championship without any genuine expectations on them from the media and supporters. After the debacle of South Africa two years ago, English fans seem to have come to the realisation that England are not the greatest side in the world. This lack of pressure may just be to their advantage. Remember what happened 20 years ago? Denmark where throw into the European Championships at the very last minute – well actually two weeks beforehand – and look what happened them. Zero pressure without one of their best players – Michael Laudrup – and a month later they were champions of Europe. If just for once in a generation the media and public would get behind the Three Lions (see Euro 1996), they may just surprise a few people.
4. The Luck of the Draw
It really could have been so much worse. No Spain, no Netherlands, no Germany. Granted France will be difficult opponents in the first game of the tournament but this French side drew with Bosnia, Romania and Belarus in qualifying as well as losing to the Belarusians in Paris. Ukraine will have a partisan home crowd behind them but Hodgson should fancy his chances against a team ranked 49 in the world. And finally Sweden, although impressive in qualifying behind Netherlands, were beaten by England only last November. If England could top the group, they would most likely avoid Spain and face Italy in the quarter-finals. When it comes to knockout football England generally go home but Hodgson will have other ideas this time around.
5. A rest is a good as a rest!
That sound you hear is straws being clutched tightly but bear with us. England’s best two players must surely be Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Gerrard has had very frustrating and stop-start season with Liverpool, starting only 12 games for the Reds. He has had his (much sought after) winter break so in theory the 32 year old may be fresh for the month ahead. Rooney on the other hand will play his last game of the season for Manchester United on 13th May. His next game will more than likely be the last group game on the 19th June. That’s a full five weeks of rest for the England striker. Plenty of time to come back rested and ready to lead England to European glory – well that’s the plan anyway!