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Ryan Ross On June - 10 - 2012

Euro 2012 Preview: England

Manager: Roy Hodgson
Captain: Steven Gerrard
Best previous Euros performance: Third, 1968; Semi-Finals, 1996.
Qualified via: Winners of Group G
FIFA Ranking: 6th

Concerns over player fitness. Criticism of the Manager’s ‘dull’ tactics. A national media frenzy regarding a certain defender’s exclusion from the squad for ‘footballing reasons.’ It’s shaping up to be a ‘normal’ summer for England. But then, would it ever be any different?

Six months before an international tournament, a national side is expected to arrange appropriate accommodation, establish a solid spine to their squad and most importantly have a coherent approach to their management structure. England, have failed at each of these.

Since Fabio Capello resigned his role as England manager in February, England have changed the captaincy, twice. Whilst also changing their manager, twice. Initially Stuart Pearce was granted the keys to guiding England’s hopes and dreams, albeit on a caretaker basis. This would allow the Football Association to conduct a ‘thorough’ search for the next manager, who would be ‘parachuted in’ for the summer’s tournament, only weeks before.

Despite a failed media campaign to promote Harry Redknapp and to everyone’s bemusement, the FA announced Roy Hodgson as the man who would ride to England’s rescue. Ironically this has worked in England’s favour. As the normally sensationalist media have dampened expectations, rather than create a frenzy of support.

No longer is the term ‘golden generation’ to be heard in the same breath as ‘England.” Long gone are the days when David ‘golden balls’ Beckham and co. would seduce and then break fan’s hearts.

Now it is a time for the ‘next generation’ to rise and gain experience. Much like Nike’s new slogan, “my time is now,” England’s youth will hope to banish age-old stereotypes. These new men do not know failure. They haven’t experienced the aftermath of losing a penalty shoot-out. Or the ignominy of failing to even qualify for a major tournament, like in 2008.

England possess the second youngest squad at this summer’s tournament: Germany the youngest. The only remnants of the ‘golden generation’ are Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, and former captain John Terry.

England’s squad was weakened through a severe spay of injuries. In midfield they’ve lost Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Jack Wilshere. Whilst in defence Kyle Walker, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill all miss out. Combine this with Wayne Rooney’s suspension and Darren Bent’s absence: England are missing up to seven players who would be automatic starters.

The duo of Ashley Young and Andy Carroll will hope to terrorise France’s defence in the opening game of Group D. Neither are established in England’s 11, and both will need to add to a meagre goal tally of seven international goals between them. Another possibility is for Danny Welbeck, aged 21 years old, to start in place of Carroll. His pace may suit England’s counter-attacking style.

England’s main strength is potentially in the wide positions. Theo Walcott, Stewart Downing, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner all offer varying options. Walcott’s pace on the right will provide an ‘out-ball’ for England’s counter-attacks. The much maligned Downing, is preferred for being the only left footed midfielder in the squad; it is essential that Hodgson gives him the confidence to succeed.

In the centre, Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker will combine to provide a stable platform for the side. Parker is seen as the defensive minded player England have lacked since the days of Paul Ince; despite a brief fling with Owen Hargreaves in 2006. A late developer, Parker became included under Capello’s ‘new-look’ England in the aftermath of the 2010 World Cup debacle. Noted for his work-rate, timing of the tackle and calmness in possession, Parker is vital to this team.

The defence has remained stable despite the loss of Gary Cahill: he suffered a broken jaw in the recent friendly with Belgium. Circumstances dictated a need for John Terry and Joleon Lescott to form a new partnership, with Terry reverting to the right-sided slot of central defence. Glen Johnson will continue his run at right-back, whilst Ashley Cole can be relied upon to keep a cool-head under pressure at left-back.

England finally have an established No.1 goalkeeper. Joe Hart has displayed remarkable maturity for a 25 year old and is the unrivalled selection for his shirt. Used to high-pressure situations with club, Manchester City, Hart will relish the challenge of leading England into his first major tournament as a first-choice. Hart will use the stage to enhance his name amongst Europe’s best goalkeepers.

It is likely that we’ll see a determined England in Poland and Ukraine. A strong defensive base will be key to their progress from Group B. Roy Hodgson will have to use every ounce of his experience to guide England. Despite having only been in charge since May, he will hope to enhance his international managerial record.


Hodgson has reverted to type with a 4-4-1-1 system, which relies upon defensive discipline and rapid counter-attacks. Training sessions will focus upon drilling tactics into the team, with each player knowing their precise movements for any state of play. Expect to see team selection vary depending upon the opposition.

Key Player: Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, England)

Steven Gerrard: named as the England Captain by Hodgson, Gerrard is expected to inspire his team-mates to success. A player who thrives in this role, he will be responsible for effective ball distribution in midfield. Without Rooney, England need Gerrard’s ability to drive the team forward and a tally of 19 goals shows his goal threat.

Player to Watch: Phil Jones (Manchester United, England)

Included in the squad, mainly for his versatility, Jones is resplendent of England’s ‘new generation.’ After a promising start, his debut season in Manchester petered out, ironically due to his versatility. Able to play at right back, central defence or central midfield, Jones is certain to feature regularly in Ukraine, most likely as a substitute to help close games out. Has fantastic vision for a pass, composed in possession and adept in the tackle, Jones offers and all-round approach to Hodgson’s England. Jones will look to convince his manager that he can oust Scott Parker in midfield.


England are likely to finish runners-up in Group D, advancing to face a revived Italian side in the quarter-finals. The national media will question John Terry’s inclusion after he slips, falling on his face, allowing Mario Balotelli to run through on goal and chip an out-rushing Joe Hart for the winning goal in stoppage time.


Group fixtures
June 11, France (Donetsk, 5pm)
June 15, Sweden (Kiev, 5pm)
June 18, Ukraine (Donetsk, 7.45pm)


12/1 Euro 2012 Winners.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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