Blog: How will the Three Lions fare at Euro 2012 in Poland & Ukraine?



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor



Pictured: The Three Lions starting line-up, selected by Stuart Pearce, before taking on Holland in an international friendly at Wembley in February


England always come into a major international with little hope but are heightened by huge expectation but with Roy in tow, can the Three Lions be successful at Euro 2012?

There is little time for new manager Roy Hodgson to experiment, so he is likely to stick with many of the players who gained qualification. The former West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool and Fulham boss is renowned for playing a bold attacking 4-4-2 formation, but without Wayne Rooney for the opening two matches through suspension in Poland & Ukraine, he is likely to play captain Steven Gerrard behind Andy Carroll or Danny Welbeck to start with against France and Sweden. 

Defensive organisation has been a lynchpin of Hodgson's success in his managerial career with Roy erring on the side of caution on many occasions in bigger games in particuar. However, he has loaded the squad with attacking midfielders to add a more offensive threat although with Lampard and Barry out injured this has been altered with the introduction of Jordan Henderson to the squad while one of Phil Jones or Phil Jagielka being pushed into the midfield area as cover. Don't expect a lot of fireworks without striker Rooney, although England have shown in recent games that a counter-attacking approach has suited them especially under Fabio Capello over the past twelve months with a 4-3-3 setup involving the emergence of the likes of Darren Bent, Scott Parker and Jack Wilshere.

It is possible that Roy will go with a more defensive approach in terms of his formation for the tournament- in particular in the first match of Group D against the mighty France in Donetsk on Monday 11th June without Wayne Rooney- such as 4-2-3-1. Although, this system can work as it has done in the past for some fantastic teams such as the likes of Liverpool under Rafael Benitez and Holland at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Before the finals two years ago, Fabio Capello had a dilemma of which goalkeeper to select out of David James, Robert Green and Ben Foster. Thankfully for Roy he has no such problem as his shotstopper is selected for him. In Joe Hart, we finally have a number one choice goalkeeper who is reliable and is fastly becoming one of the greatest to play in the Premier League. The Manchester City keeper is being tipped to captain England in the future and has enjoyed an outstanding season with the title winners. Liverpool's Glen Johnson will get the nod over Liverpool's Martin Kelly at right-back with Phil Jones another candidate for that position. John Terry will be in central defence and because of Cahill's absence, Hodgson is to decide whether it is Lescott or Jagielka to partner him. I foresee that he will choose Joleon Lescott due to his experience over the last couple of years of being under pressure to win more at City rather than Jagielka who has been at Everton sustaining a couple of injuries which has stopped and started his progress. Ashley Cole at left-back over Baines. In midfield it will be James Milner and Scott Parker sitting behind- both have had splendid seasons on the whole although the last few weeks were forgetful for both for contrasting reasons. Walcott's pace will be a threat so he has to start on the right. Captain Steven Gerrard will be the lynchpin in midfield roaming around freely behind the striker given license to push forward without defensive responsibilities. Ashley Young is one of the key men for the Three Lions at the tournament therefore has to be chosen. Danny Welbeck should get the nod over Andy Carroll upfront despite his recent injury problems especially after his terrific goal against the Belgians and his excellent progress in training.

After more than a decade as one of the world's best midfielders and one of the best that the Premier League has seen in its twenty years, it is over to Liverpool's Steven Gerrard as captain and leader to inspire England's underachievers of two years ago to the heights which have been expected of them in recent major international tournaments but have failed to reach.

One of the so-called 'Golden Generation' upon whom the lights are starting to fade, at least at international level, much will rest on inspirational Gerrard initially - if fully fit - in the absence of his fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney, who is banned for the first two group games. Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck has been tipped by many pundits to break into the England team at the tournament following a promising season at Old Trafford, which has seen him keep Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez out of the starting line-up. The 21-year-old has made five England appearances to date- scoring the winner against Belgium in a friendly at the beginning of June- and scored five goals in fourteen games for the Under-21s side. 

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney threw to one side a frenzy of allegations over his private life to spark England to a convincing 3-1 victory in Switzerland back in 2010 as Fabio Capello's team made it a maximum six points from their first two Euro 2012 qualifiers, paving the way for their relatively smooth progress as eventual winners of Group G in qualification with Montenegro finishing second in the play-off position but eventually lost out. Rooney's goal was his first for England in a year and Manchester City's Adam Johnson showed the options available on the bench, excelling as a substitute after Theo Walcott was stretchered off by adding a superbly-taken second goal in the 69th minute in Basle. 

Roy Hodgson was appointed as Capello's successor, after he resigned from the post in February after John Terry was excremated as England skipper without his knowledge, on 1st May following several weeks of speculation suggesting that Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was going to land the job. He stayed on at West Brom to see out the last two games of the Premier League season meaning he couldn't begin duties straight away giving him even less time to focus on England.

Hodgson's previous international experience with Switzerland at the World Cup in 1994 was an important factor for the Football Association when making him the coach of the national team- something which Redknapp doesn't have on his CV.

The 64-year old former Fulham, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion coach named his 23-man squad on 16th May, leaving out Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand whilst opting for Gerrard as his captain. Hodgson will be looking to make an immediate impact and has only had two friendlies against Norway and Belgium as preparation for the tournament. The 1966 World Cup winners came third two years later in Italy, beaten 1-0 in the semi-finals by Yugoslavia- although it was still the farthest that England have reached in the European Championship finals.

They qualified just once for the tournament between then and 1988 while miserably failing to qualify last time around in 2008 after a loss to Croatia sealed the fate of Steve McClaren's men. Euro 1996- when 'Football Came Home' according to the now famous song- saw Terry Venables' side reach the semi-finals, only to be knocked out by guess who- Germany of course (just like two years ago in the last 16 stage). The year of 1966 when Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup is still ringing loud in the ears of Three Lions supporters. It's still the benchmark as the archives continue to reminsce by playing out those famous moments such as the legendary Nobby Stiles bouncing up and down like a jack-in-a-box over the Wembley turf.  


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