If England fail to win Euro 2016, it’ll likely be the defenders’ fault.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, particularly the rearguard, have come in for some heavy criticism. Some of the most scathing was from former England greats Rio Ferdinand and Alan Shearer, with the latter putting up the team’s defence as its weak link.
The manager hasn’t exactly helped the situation, highlighting the dearth of central defensive options in the country by only taking three to France, with Tottenham’s Eric Dier cast in the customary tournament role of utility man.
With a whopping five strikers in the squad, it certainly seems Hodgson could have balanced the books by leaving one goal getter at home in favour of a specialist centre-half. But then that would detract from the 68-year-old’s God-given ability to coax defensively sound methods.
Let’s not forget that the 9/1 Euros hopefuls only conceded three goals during a qualifying campaign that saw them win all 10 matches.
The Three Lions have also only ever conceded more than twice in a game on two occasions during Hodgson’s 51-game tenure. They also haven’t suffered such a defensive lapse since a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Sweden slotted four past Joe Hart in November 2012.
Sturdily-built outfits have been a staple of Hodgson’s lengthy managerial career too.
He took Fulham to the Europa League final in the 2009/10 campaign, just one year after saving the Cottagers from what looked almost certain relegation from the Premier League.
The Londoners’ progression to eventual silver medallists in that tournament came from a host of organised, miserly outings against the likes of Roma, Juventus and Wolfsburg.
West Brom also benefitted from Hodgson’s defensive nous when escaping the top-flight’s trapdoor in 2010/11, losing just twice in 13 outings under the now national manager’s guidance.
So, while on the face of it Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, John Stones and a band of attacking full-backs may not inspire much confidence in shutting out opposing attacks, don’t rule them out completely with Hodgson in charge.