It’s two games and two wins for England in the Hodgson era. Now the ever changing 23-man squad jets off to eastern Europe to embark on the path to European Championship glory.
With a feeling of patriotism inspired by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and a longing for retribution after the Europeans indulged in a spot of Engelbert Humperdinck-bashing, we threw some statistics and a handful of coal into bwin’s Bertha-like computer and it spat out five foolproof reasons as to why the Three Lions will roar this summer and lift the Henri Delaunay trophy on July 1st.
- Hodgson guiding Fulham to Europa League Final in 2010
Back in the 2009/10 season, Roy Hodgson showed England why he is one of the most highly respected coaches around Europe. He took a team who only narrowly escaped from the clutches of relegation the previous season to the final of the Europa League, eliminating the likes of Wolfsburg and Juventus along the way. Hodgson had Chris Baird, Dickson Etuhu and Zoltan Gera but still managed to guide the ‘little team that could’ all the way to the Nordbank Arena in Hamburg, where they faced Atletico Madrid for the chance to lift the trophy. His tactical nous had impressed all and sundry, and if he can put that ability to good use again this summer while drawing on his general knowledge of the world game (look out Sweden), England have every chance of negotiating their way past anyone they meet. Okay, Fulham lost the final to Atletico, but Diego Forlan won’t be at Euro 2012.
- Relatively simple group compared to other big guns
After the draw was made for the group stages of Euro 2012, I couldn’t help but notice how lop-sided it was. The fabled Group of Death is made up of Holland, Germany, Portugal and Denmark, while the Republic of Ireland have to negotiate the trio of Spain, Italy and Croatia. By comparison, England’s group doesn’t seem too bad. France first up will undoubtedly be the toughest of the three ties, but just look at their recent record in major tournaments. The World and European Champions of 1998 and 2000 have been eliminated in the group stage in three of the five tournaments since then, and haven’t made it past the quarter-finals of a European Championship since winning it twelve years ago. Sweden had held somewhat of a hex over England until they lost 1-0 at Wembley last November thanks to a Daniel Majstorovic own goal. And Ukraine warmed up for their own tournament by losing to Austria, plus they still have Andriy Voronin. England will breeze it. Probably.
- Majority of squad made up of cup specialists Liverpool
When Gary Cahill was unfortunately ruled out of the tournament, his replacement was Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly. The 22-year old was immediately chastised by the ‘Twitterati’ for the heinous crime of not being Rio Ferdinand, but something far more important seemed to escape the notice of the casual England fan. Kelly’s call-up took the total of Liverpool players in the squad to six, which given their eighth place finish in the Premier League may not fill an average punter’s heart with hope. However, we should not forget that Euro 2012 is ultimately a cup competition, an area of the game the Anfield side excelled in last season. The experience of winning one-off knockout games that Steven Gerrard, Martin Kelly, Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll can bring to the squad may just come in handy. If only Luis Suarez had been born in Scarborough.
- The Young/Welbeck/Rooney triumvirate
Although Manchester United narrowly missed out on the Premier League title, there can be no denying that at times in the 2011/12 campaign, the Red Devils played attacking football that opponents just couldn’t live with. At the heart of it all was the trio of Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney. Assuming that Hodgson can guide his men through the opening two games, by the time England line up against Ukraine in Donetsk on June 19th, they will have their talisman Rooney back. The understanding built up at club level cannot be underestimated, and it will be exciting to see if Young and Welbeck, who combined to score the only goal of the game against Belgium, can replicate their club form when Rooney returns following his suspension. With 55 club goals between them last season, and with Young and Welbeck having already hit the back of the net under Hodgson, there is every chance England can take advantage of the work Manchester United have put in to create this attacking force.
- The presence of Scott Parker
The tough tackler. The water carrier. That soppy haired kid off the McDonald’s advert. It cannot be suggested that Scott Parker is likely to score a Maradona-esque goal in the final against Spain, but having him in the team could be just as – if not more – important to the England cause this summer. A man who won the Football Writers’ Player of the Season award after being relegated must have something about him, and Tottenham fans will certainly tell you that Parker most definitely has something about him. Importantly, he comes into the England side for the first time at a major tournament to take his place in a role that has been desperately difficult to fill. Gareth Barry looked to be a relatively solid defensive midfielder choice until he was beaten for pace by Mesut Ozil in South Africa akin to a cheetah being outrun by a three-legged bovine. Parker will put himself on the line to block and/or tackle anything that gets near the defence, and is the most likely to be donning the ‘Terry Butcher look’ in Ukraine or Poland. In fact, he may even get to that stage after the first warm-up session. Crucially, in Parker and Gerrard, England may finally have a workable central midfield partnership, and that in itself could be the difference between success and failure for Roy Hodgson and his Three Lions.
So there you have it: five solid and unarguable reasons why England WILL win Euro 2012. At odds of 14/1 with bwin, you can’t not have a little flutter on the lads, can you? I’m sure Her Majesty will.
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