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England Euro 2012 Dark Horses?

Why all the doom and gloom?

Here we have it, Euro 2012 is upon us. I have to say that because so many people wouldn’t know it. The build up to the tournament has been as low key as I can remember. The national side travel to Poland and Ukraine with so few expectations from a passionate country whose religion is Football, but why?

The FA has brought this on themselves. They made a mockery of the appointment of Roy Hodgson and have put him in such a difficult position as the experienced man has had very little time to prepare for this major competition. What he has done in this short time is commendable though. two wins and two clean sheets are good by anyone’s standards.

The way Hodgson has set the team up to play is completely different to the last regime. Fabio Capello wanted to match the fluidness of the top sides by adopting a lone front man, with three creative players roaming behind. Not a bad way to play. Hodgson, however, is sticking to what he knows, and who can blame him? He has set the team up to be difficult to beat. A conservative approach. A different philosophy. Trust your back four and goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet and hit the opposition with a counter attack or set piece. Nothing wrong with this, providing we can keep possession a little better than we have been.  It will be difficult for a group of 23 players to adapt to a new managers methods but I am glad to see the expansive game go out the window (for now) defend well and nick a goal, simple.

This conservative approach should work well. With grafters in the team it has a solid foundation. Traditional wingers have been traded for industrial ones. The inclusion of James Milner is evidence of this. When England play best it is without the ball. We press the opposition well and force mistakes in the final third. Milner does this better than anyone. His work ethic for the team is unbelievable and that’s why he has to be in the starting 11 come June 11th.

The same can be said of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlaine. Hes a player who excites me, a true rough diamond. People like to see players who are raw, they can relate to them more. The Ox, as he’s fast becoming known as, has incredible likeability. He hasn’t been around long enough to get into any form of tabloid dramas and this will stand him in good stead. He has a feel of Michael Owen at France 98 or Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004. People want to see him play. He matches Milner with his work rate, which should be enough to win his place in the starting line up, but there is more to him than just tracking back to cover a bombarding Ashley Cole. He’s unknown to opposition, they won’t know how to deal with his directness. His dynamic running will cause problems and win free kicks in dangerous positions, allowing the threat of John Terry and co to profit from. As a country we need to understand that this boy will make mistakes and he will lose possession, but it will be at the cost of being inventive. His mistakes will be worth it if he creates goal scoring opportunities for others.

We need to persevere with these exciting young players. There is no guarantee of a fairytale ending, but the pace and fearlessness of The Ox make him worth a gamble. Another big reason for him starting is the impact his club mate, Theo Walcott, can have from the bench. The Ox can try and be creative, try and make something happen and use all his energy before his opposing right back because he is safe in the knowledge that Walcott has pace to burn in the latter stages of a game. It’s inevitable that he will fade but the introduction of Walcott means it won’t be a problem. This will worry the opposition more than any other player in our squad, with the exception of Wayne Rooney. With the experience he will gain for the next World Cup too, I can’t see too many negatives for his inclusion.

One worry I have is in the centre of midfield where Scott Parker needs to be more disciplined. He dives into tackles far too quickly and picks up too many yellow cards. In a competition as short as the Euros, I worry a suspension may cost us if the team is broken up. He gets these cautions through sheer desire to win the ball, but needs to choose when to go to ground and when to surrender possession. He should complement the ever influential Steven Gerrard in the middle though, with Gerrard having more license to combine with the attacking players when going forward. It still bugs me that 2 of the seasons best performers in this position have made themselves unavailable for national duty. The players in question being Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes.

We should be more optimistic as supporters. Ashley Young has proven a class act at international level and can really have an impact against any international side. His versatility and creativeness in a deeper role will draw players out of position for others to exploit. He has an eye for goal and has a splendid delivery. His club relationships with Rooney and Danny Welback will also prove beneficial. Welbeck is a striker who knows how to score a goal. He would of gained confidence and has the quality to play international football due to the composure he possesses. With Rooney and Andy Carroll to come in, I think we look strong in that position.

The French will be a huge test, there’s no question about that. They are very good going forward, but can be got at in defence. If we can avoid defeat I believe we can beat Sweden and Ukraine. None of the 3 games will be easy. We tend to have 2 tough games and an “easier” one in past tournaments. This can be detrimental to the side as expectations build. The fact that there is little to no expectation on the side this time may just work to England’s benefit, Roy Hodgson will certainly know that. With The Jubilee and Olympics, football has taken a back seat, the whole country is feeling patriotic right now. The footballers can come back as heroes. Or can they?

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