Euro 2012: Nothing to fear England?

A new contributer, Josh Galley*, gives us his impressions of the opening salvos of Euro 2012 and the new manager’s approach to the task in hand. Reflecting on the build up and the first few fixtures, Josh has seen plenty of positives but isn’t yet ready to go overboard …

Jake' s art

Well, as the first round of the Euro 2012 games has drawn to a close, it seems an opportune time to reflect on what we have seen thus far in the tournament, and reassess the level of expectancy that can be placed on Roy Hodgson’s revitalised England squad.

Going into the tournament, there has been an impending sense of doom regarding England’s hopes of finally realising success in a major international competition. We as a nation are certainly no strangers to controversy in football, and predictably, the build up to the Euros saw a multiplicity of incidents that gave the British media more than enough ammunition to derail our latest hunt for glory.

John Terry’s alleged racist verbal attack on Anton Ferdinand sparked media frenzy, and when senior FA officials reacted by stripping him of the England captaincy, Fabio Capello decided it was time to hit the road (a blessing in disguise). While this was going on, there was also the matter of Wayne Rooney’s three-match suspension (reduced to two on appeal) for his juvenile kick-out at Montenegro’s Miodrag Dzudovic, which called into question the England talisman’s place in the Euro squad. Hardly ideal preparation.

England’s troubles were not helped by the ever-expanding injury list, with Frankie Lampard, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill and the promising Kyle Walker to name a few, all falling victim to untimely injuries. Surely that’s enough disruption to the preparations? No?

But then we had the furore when Roy decided that Rio Ferdinand would not only miss out on his initial squad, but would also be ignored when the Three Lions’ chief went in search of a replacement for the crocked Cahill. In my view, a bold decision and a statement of intent – in the media’s an astounding decision and a cataclysmic mistake. The same media that called for change and fresh-blood. There evidently is just no pleasing some people.

Going into their opening group game against France on Monday evening, the England players seemed focused, confident and relaxed. Likewise, the manager was a picture of calm, and rather than be drawn into discussing the threat of the French attacking line, he chose instead to focus on his own players and asked them to reproduce the form they’d shown at club level.

Alas, an England manager that seems able to recognize that this has been conspicuous by its absence in recent years. Hodgson also won over some of the doubters by selecting Arsenal’s whiz-kid Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain (The Ox) in his first competitive England line-up, and as the team arrived at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk, there was an air of anticipation rather than resignation.

Do I sense a feeling of quiet optimism? Surely not.

I won’t bore you with a match report, I expect that anyone remotely interested in this article will have a good idea of what happened during the game and will likely have drawn their own conclusions. I believe that it was a solid England performance, and without ever really providing the fans with much to shout about, the players ground out a positive result against a side that for one reason and another, were expected to beat England. There were many positives to take away, including the link-up play between Ashley Young and “once our own” Danny Welbeck, the latter having a particularly good game with some intelligent off-the-ball play. We also saw the emergence of “The Ox” on the competitive international stage, and he clearly wasn’t fazed by the occasion with some flashes of individual brilliance.

With Wayne Rooney’s return edging ever closer, and what is surely the most difficult game out of the way, England have left themselves in a strong position within Group D. Although the joint-host nation Ukraine and the irritating Sweden will provide England with further tests, we should surely expect to obtain enough points to advance to the knockout stage, and then with a bit of luck it’s anybody’s game.

Ukraine boast a frontline of Premier League flops in Andriy Shevchenko (a class act) and Andriy Vornonin, whilst the Swede’s right flank is headed by none other than Seb Larsson who, despite my desire to defend, is definitely not cut out for such intense international football and will surely be a liability defensively.

In terms of the other teams in the competition, I’m far from overwhelmed by any of the football I have seen so far and see very little reason for England to fear any potential knockout opponents.

While many people’s favourites Spain, played some attractive football, they also looked vulnerable defensively, and if the latter stages of this seasons Champions League taught us anything it’s that dominating a game of football counts for nothing come the final whistle. The Germans look typically strong, and with the added ingredients of flair and class, they too look like contenders. The Netherlands, despite a convincing qualifying campaign, lost out to Denmark in their opening fixture, and with games against the aforementioned Germany and a dangerous Portugal to come, they have left themselves with a mountain to climb if they are to progress.

Elsewhere there were convincing wins for Russia and Croatia, albeit against uninspiring opponents in the form of Czech Republic and Ireland respectively. The Republic of Ireland’s performance was particularly disappointing and emergent Sunderland youngster James Mclean never made it onto the pitch despite laborious and predictable attacking play throughout.

Not to worry, I’m certain that Mclean will demolish Alvaro Arbeloa when Ireland clash with Spain on Thursday.

Looking forward I expect to see much more from the Spanish and the Germans, and despite my positivity surrounding Roy Hodgson’s England, ultimately I feel it will be one of the Euro 2008 finalists that comes away victorious. Positivity is the key though, and if the 2011/2012 football season is anything to go by, we could be in for even more surprises.

“Three Lions on a shirt” … COME ON ENGLAND

* Josh Galley on Josh Galley: I’m 22 and recently graduated from the University of Sunderland where I was studying English Language and Linguistics with a minor in Sports studies. Due to my Sunderland fanatic family, I’ve been a passionate Sunderland supporter since the age of about 6, and have had a season ticket for the best part of 9 years after finally moving back to the area in 2003. I spend much of my spare time away from the world of football reading and occasionally writing and I love the opportunity to have my say on what’s going on. I recently became a father to one of Sunderland’s latest recruits. If only he knew what he was (okay, I was) letting himself in for.

18 thoughts on “Euro 2012: Nothing to fear England?”

  1. Probs haven’t seen enough of him. He has pace though and that was my relevance to him playing in 5 man midfield against Spain.

  2. Not sure about McGeady. Seems very one-footed to be playing on the wrong wing. Might be ok on the right. We have been linked and I can’t say I am too excited by the prospect.

  3. To be fair, anybody who tries to take on Spain with a 442 system using Whelan and Andrews as centre midfield partnership can’t be described as a tactical genius. how would that ever result in anything but Ireland being over-ran in midfield to an embarrassing extent?

    I’m not sure even Hodgson do that. We didn’t even play two right up top against France. Madness. Shoulda played target man and 5 in midfield with McClean and McGeady as wingers to get up and support.

  4. That’s a great post Dave. Cox has been a terrible signing for WBA. Someone struggling to get into the first team at any PL side should never be included above someone else however raw who has had a good run of form. In Cox’s case it isn’t about form per se, it’s about a lack of ability to cut it at the highest level.

    When Trappatoni described Glenn Whelan as “the Irish Gattuso” a couple of seasons ago it raised some eyebrows. I look at the likes of Whelan and wonder how I never made it as an international footballer myself. Tactically bumbling, he adds to it by coming out with these highly quotable spurts of drivel. Maybe something gets lost in the translation but the likes of Jon Walters is a complete nacker in every language from Italian to Sanskrit.

    He has adopted a rather formulaic way of thinking about the Ireland job, which may be appropriate for a nation which has a huge talent pool to pick from. He hasn’t got that luxury and the inclusion of McClean is not something he would be criticised for in my opinion. He is saving the lad for what exactly? Christmas? He needs reminding that the European Championships are the real deal. and not a dry run. You hear managers talking about building a team and letting younger players develop etc, but its a load of bollcocks really. They can either play or they can’t. Don’t clutter the squad with passengers who aren’t going to feature in any circumstances. Walcott under SGE springs to mind who didn’t even get a run out against a side from the West Indies. Why take him?

    Trappatoni does at least provide some amusement as we wait for the next ludicrous decision and sound bite.

  5. Partly on the subject of James McLean, can anyone explain the apparently unanimous view of Trapatoni as a tactical genius?
    I was looking forward to watching Ireland with their 3 Sunderland players all quite prominent in the squad but, boy, have I been disappointed. Westwood doesn’t play despite Given clearly being unfit and responsible for 2 goals in the first game. O’Shea, who every Sunderland supporter knows is a great centre-half but a way below average full-back, plays right-back to allow St Ledger of Leicester to play centre-half. Either Ireland have no right backs at all, or Trapatoni is clueless.
    Finally, to clinch the deal, you are 3-1 down to a side that have already shown they cannot defend crosses. You decide to replace your left winger who is struggling to make an impact. Do you replace him with
    a) Your new dynamic left-winger. A bit raw but takes people on and the one thing he is sure to do is put some crosses in OR
    b) your West Brom reserve cebtre-forward, playing out of position and bound to come inside at every opportunity.
    Anyone who went for b is apparently a tactical genius.

  6. I thought the McClean comment was serious, I was agreeing with it. Have to laugh at Trap’s stubbornness. Simon Cox on the wing? Jeeees. Like Keegan refusing to give Super Kev any playing time in Euro 2000

  7. Malcolm. Nowt against Seaham at all mate. Walters just wouldn’t get a game for Murton CW that’s all.

  8. Enjoyed the read, Josh. Nice to see the old alma mater is continuing to turn out good writers (said he, modestly!!!).
    Big test for England against Sweden, where they have to be more positive and not sit as deep.
    I thought Poland v Russia was an absolute belter tonight. I still think Russia look potential winners.

  9. Haha, the James Mclean comment was made in jest, although I do believe he will pose more of a threat to the Spanish defence than the players I saw on Sunday.

    Thanks for all the positive comments.

  10. I’m just sorry that your prediction about McClean is unlikely to come true. Trapattoni seems determined to keep him out of the fray. Not sure why someone who has been playing top flight league football needs to be protected from the spotlight like this, particularly given the fact that JM appears to not have a single nerve in his body. For me this tournament is just made for him and I would love to see him get a run out in the next game. Trappatoni’s comments about Simon Cox made me cringe (about him being a winger). He is equally determined to start with Jonathon Walters who has to be one of the worst footballers to ever appear in the PL. He should be playing for Seaham Red Star.

  11. I thought Engand looked dangerous in spells during both halfs. The players seem to have gone away in a better frame of mind than 2 years ago in the south African debarcle. Get Rooney back, get young back out wide and let’s see. Good article.

    • Absolutely; Veronica. Not only is any new writer welcome on these pages but one who brings down the average age of the team deserves flags and bunting. Thanks, Josh, and keep them coming.

  12. Good article that I think sums up Englands performance and the usual drama leading into any competiton England are involved in.

  13. Both Denmarkand England have shown that having a lower ball retention than the opposition is nothing to fear or be nervous about.

    • Oh, yes it is, if it is opposed by a side with an attacking mentality and, especially, when that side can boast an unpredictable player who can spring defences and create mistakes or cause panic. George Best comes to mind.

      I’d say what we have seen to date is a legacy from the Champions league – a “possess but be cautious” mentality. Could it be that possesion reduces the chances of losing and, in European games, losing early games leaves little time to recover in comparison to a season-long competition?

      Cambridge United were really good at this in the eighties!

      • I think England will always have players who can respond and produce spontaneous quality though. Always have done, always will do. This fact maybe makes it a little less worrying for us than sides like Denmark.

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