At just after 1pm on Wednesday 16th May 2012, Roy Hodgson named his first ever England squad. But this is not just any squad – this is the squad set to travel to Ukraine and Poland to compete at Euro 2012.
Rarely has a new manager been thrown head first straight into tournament football, but the former Fulham, Inter Milan and West Brom manager had no chance to experiment or tinker. He had to know his best squad right away.
And so 23 names were revealed and social media was whipped into a frenzy. People were questioning the omissions of Rio Ferdinand, Micah Richards and Peter Crouch, while the selections of Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and John Terry came under much scrutiny.
Hodgson has opted for a mix of old and new, hoping that the experience will prove invaluable to the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck, who he sees as the future of the national side.
So here is bwin’s definitive (so to speak) assessment of Hodgson’s picks, and whether or not the Three Lions will have what it takes to go all the way this summer. Bwin has England priced at 13/1 to do just that.
Going with the traditional three keepers, there was little doubt that Joe Hart was going to get the nod. England’s number one has been compared to world greats like Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon thanks to his heroic performances for Manchester City this season, culminating in a Premier League winner’s medal.
West Ham’s Robert Green kept his place despite a less than impressive World Cup campaign two years ago, as well as having been a year out of England’s top flight, but has presumably been picked for his previous international experience.
The surprise pick to some was John Ruddy. However, the Norwich keeper is one of only two English shot stoppers in the Premier League along with Hart, and to me was an obvious candidate, especially given his numerous man of the match performances for the Canaries this season.
Hart can be grabbed at 11/5 to keep a clean sheet in England’s opener against France.
bwin verdict – No arguments here. The right men were chosen.
The big talking point of the squad announcement was the decision to axe Rio Ferdinand and select John Terry. The Chelsea captain is still at the centre of a race row involving Rio’s brother Anton, and questions had been asked about whether the duo would be able to play together. Hodgson solved it by snubbing Ferdinand, and maintaining it was a decision based on football and nothing else. I would tend to agree as the former Leeds man has been far from his best this season at Manchester United, although you could make a similar argument about Terry.
Elsewhere, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones were selected ahead of Micah Richards and the injured Kyle Walker. The Tottenham right back would surely have gone if not for a heel problem, and Richards may have paid the price for falling out of favour at Manchester City in the final weeks of the season.
Regular England performers Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines virtually picked themselves. With a likely starting back four of Johnson, Cahill, Terry and Cole, sufficient communication between Hart and his back four should prove the defence to be a lot more reliable than it was in South Africa two years ago. That said, the decision to select Terry could come back to haunt Hodgson given the Chelsea man’s divisive nature.
bwin verdict – Richards should have been selected ahead of either Jones or even Terry in the interest of team harmony.
The surprise in the midfield selection came in the shape of 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Arsenal youngster made just six starts in the Premier League this season, but made a big impression both domestically and in Europe. He impressed Hodgson so much in the Champions League game against AC Milan that the England boss forgot that Andrea Pirlo signed for Juventus a year ago. Comparisons have already been made with fellow Gunner and Southampton academy graduate Theo Walcott’s selection as a 17-year-old for the 2006 World Cup, and it’s up to ‘the Ox’ to show he’s got what it takes.
The only other questionable selection came in the form of Stewart Downing, who registered no assists or goals for Liverpool in the league this season. Otherwise it was solid picks such as Gareth Barry, utility man James Milner, Frank Lampard, Walcott, Scott Parker (subject to injury), Ashley Young and new England captain Steven Gerrard. Given how Hodgson likes his 4-4-2s, expect Walcott, Gerrard, Parker and Young to start against France on June 11, providing plenty of width, pace, drive and fight to frighten Ribery and co.
bwin verdict – Adam Johnson should have been picked in place of Downing, Aaron Lennon perhaps deserved the nod over Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Michael Carrick can consider himself unlucky to have missed out after a good season at Old Trafford.
Four strikers selected, each with their own vast lists of pros and cons. Andy Carroll was labelled ‘unplayable’ by numerous defenders in his time at Newcastle, and after a very slow start, is beginning to enjoy high praise for his battling performances at Liverpool. After a fine run of form towards the end of the campaign, including almost single-handedly getting the Reds back into the FA Cup final from being 2-0 down against Chelsea, Carroll has bagged himself a spot on the England plane. However, scoring just six goals in the Premier League does not inspire confidence that he can bag a hatful at Euro 2012, and the fact he can go missing if things aren’t going his way will be a concern.
Jermain Defoe has scored seventeen goals for Tottenham this season, has international tournament experience, and is one of the most lethal finishers in England. However, he has barely played since the turn of the year, and hasn’t turned out in a competitive game for England in 20 months.
Danny Welbeck has showed a lot of promise this season, forming a formidable partnership with Wayne Rooney at Manchester United. However, he bagged just nine league goals this campaign, and is very inexperienced at senior international level. He thrives when he can link-up with a more potent goalscorer such as Rooney. The former Everton man is without doubt one of the top players in the game, and can be a match winner on his day. However, the obvious con with Rooney is the fact he is suspended for the first two games against France and Sweden. With ‘Wazza’ out, expect one or both of Welbeck and Carroll to start in Donetsk.
Rooney is 8/1 with bwin to be England’s top scorer at Euro 2012.
bwin verdict – While the selection should do wonders for Carroll’s confidence, the international record of Peter Crouch should have seen the Stoke man in the 23.
Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland must have fallen off his chair when he got the call, or text, or tweet, or carrier pigeon, or whatever the FA use these days, telling him he was on the stand-by list for the England Euro 2012 squad. The 19-year old was playing on loan at Cheltenham Town in League Two just one month ago, but clearly Hodgson thinks as highly of him as the hierarchy at St Andrews do.
There were a few raised eyebrows that Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson made the stand-by list ahead of Michael Carrick, but again it seems the England boss is looking to the future. Adam Johnson, Daniel Sturridge and Phil Jagielka will make very able replacements if called up in an emergency.
bwin verdict – Scott Carson may be kissing his international career goodbye with the selection of Butland, but it’s hard to argue with the selections. Arguments could be had over whether Johnson, Sturridge or Jagielka should have made the full squad.
And so there we have it. All in all it’s a strong squad that Roy Hodgson has assembled, with a nice looking blend of youth and experience. If England come through the opening two games unscathed, with Gerrard as captain and Rooney to come back in, the Three Lions could go far this summer. Whether they have what it takes to win the whole thing is indeed questionable given the quality of opposition, but the foundations could be laid for success, perhaps beyond this campaign.
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