As the EURO 2012 approaches, Extratime.ie will take an indepth look into each participating team. Cathal Wogan looks at the EURO 2012 Group D side England.
The announcement of new boss Roy Hodgson’s England squad was preceded by a flurry of rumour and speculation, with much of it proving to be true upon the moment of revelation.
The exclusion of former captain and defensive stalwart Rio Ferdinand – a man who has never actually played at the European Championships despite over a decade of international experience – was as surprising as the inclusion of his race row rival and fellow central defender John Terry.
The team wasn’t big enough, neither metaphorically nor in actual number, for the both of them, and it was the 33-year-old Manchester United star who was left out. Ferdinand’s injury problems have reportedly counted against him, though Terry’s problematic relationships with his teammates could be a more destructive question.
Micah Richards is another surprise exclusion. The Manchester City defender can play at centre-back or right-back and has shown class in both positions, but instead another versatile younger defender, Phil Jones, will provide cover for Glen Johnson, who it appears will be first choice.
Striker Andy Carroll has been named in the squad despite wildly erratic form this season, while his Liverpool comrade Steven Gerrard has been named captain.
Goalkeepers: 1 Joe Hart, 13 Rob Green, 23 Jack Butland
Defenders: 2 Glen Johnson, 3 Ashley Cole, 5 Gary Cahill, 6 John Terry, 12 Leighton Baines, 14 Phil Jones, 15 Joleon Lescott, 18 Phil Jagielka
Midfielders: 4 Steven Gerrard, 7 Theo Walcott, 8 Frank Lampard, 11 Ashley Young, 16 James Milner, 17 Scott Parker, 19 Stewart Downing, 20 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Forwards: 9 Andy Carroll, 10 Wayne Rooney, 21 Jermain Defoe, 22 Danny Welbeck
Departed manager Fabio Capello guided England through Qualifying Group G without a defeat, though spectacular or convincing in topping the table they certainly were not.
During their five wins and three draws in a pool with Wales, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Montenegro, the Three Lions spent more time purring than roaring or, indeed, tearing the flesh from their opponents in a show of footballing excellence that fans have been waiting decades for.
England began their qualifying campaign with a 4-0 win against Bulgaria – not exactly the impressive side they were historically – with a Jermain Defoe hat-trick providing the inspiration. They were Defoe’s only goals in qualifying, leaving him level with Aston Villa’s Darren Bent, who misses this tournament through injury, as the team’s top scorer during the process.
Worrying for new boss Roy Hodgson will be the team’s form after that opening victory. They scored 13 goals in the following seven games, a meagre return against meagre competition and could not beat their strongest opposition, Montenegro, home or away.
That comfortable but hardly impressive passage to Group D of Euro 2012 has not left English fans in raptures about the chances of their side landing their first ever European Championships crown. That though, may be perfect for Hodgson, who showed at Liverpool that high expectations might not be his cup of tea.
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart could make the difference for England if they are to get anywhere in this tournament. The country boasts quite a few competent stoppers, but all that have been granted the English number one shirt have dirtied their bibs with errors of varying degrees of humiliation attached.
Hart has so far proven himself to be an able last line of defence and, without obvious weaknesses in his ever-improving game, he might have a breakout tournament.
At the other end of the range of international experience is captain Stephen Gerrard. It is almost cliché to say that the Liverpool midfielder is one of the best of his generation, but he has to prove it. With 90 caps and 19 international goals to his name, some will say he does not need to validate the admiration felt for him by objective admirers.
However, the almost too versatile 31-year-old has only shown his undeniable class in patches over the past two or three seasons and has been unable to show that central midfield is his best position – despite the casual fan’s assertion that it is. This is his chance to quell the doubts and finally show that he is a once in a generation player and, possibly, a heroic leader.
The English camp will be in the beautiful Polish city of Kraków. How much time the players will have to take in the town’s collage of historical streets and architecture is unclear though, as they have a football tournament to prepare for.
They will be training at Kraków’s rather humble Hutnik Municipality Stadium, and staying at Kraków’s Starry Hotel, a modest choice when compared to the luxurious comfort that most of these players are accustomed too.
The problem with all of that is that England are due to play all of their group games in Ukraine. The decision to set up camp in Kraków has been tagged geographically naïve by most, and the numbers back that up.
England will have to travel 900 miles to play France in Donetsk on June 11, then 900 miles back. It’s a round trip of over 1,000 miles to Kiev where they play Sweden on June 15. Then it’s back to Donetsk for a game against hosts Ukraine on June 19. Charge the iPods.
- Only seven countries have claimed the World Cup and England are among them, but they have never won the European Championships – getting to the semi-finals on two occasions (1968 and 1996).
- Of the last nine editions of the competition that they have qualified for, stretching across 36 years, England have only advanced form the group stages twice (1996 and 2004). In 1996, when they reached the semi-final, the tournament was held in England and they enjoyed the considerable advantage of playing every game in the old Wembley.*
- Before beating them in a friendly in November last year, England had failed to beat Group D rivals Sweden on 12 consecutive occasions, with their previous win over the Scandinavians coming in Wembley in 1968 under Alf Ramsey.
England finished off their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win at home to Wales and a 2-2 draw against Montenegro in Podgorica, Montenegro. Since then they recorded 1-0 victories over Spain (much against the run of play) and Sweden, before suffering a 3-2 defeat to Holland.
They have not played under new boss Roy Hodgson. The new man got the nod with a collective ‘meh’ from fans who were working on the assumption that Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp would be picked.
Friendly games against Norway and Belgium before the tournament will be watched keenly by those wishing to see what kind of stamp Hodgson will put on the side.
*Fact ammended on 16/05/12.