Date:Monday June 11 2012
Is this the first time ever that England have gone to a tournament and there wasn`t a single rational person who believed they could win it?
Now I have to confess that I share the pessimism that England will have to fight just to get out of their group and that a quarter final would be an almost creditable result, but there is an increasing part of me that wonders if the lack of national expectation will serve the players and manager well and who knows we might surprise a few people in doing better than is expected. The pressure of the nation and its media is something that I have long believed has brought fear to the legs of our players and the worry of failure is far greater than the belief of winning. Take that expectation away?
What we have seen already this tournament is that the international giants, haven`t started to play well and who knows whether they will? For me, none of the favourites have blown me away with an outstanding display, but whether this is due to them simply building up their form or that they are actually slightly off their games after long and debilitating seasons, remains to be seen, but as we have seen with Denmark and Greece this is a tournament that is winnable by an underdog, so why not England?
Perhaps I am already getting carried away, with the thought that we might actually win it, though in truth that hasn`t really entered my head, but then again stranger things have happened, and despite losing several players to injury, this is a decent squad of players, and if we get lucky with injuries and our results allow us to build up momentum and confidence, who knows how far we could go here? Would a semi final be cause for a national day of celebration?
You would assume that tonight`s game will the will be the toughest of the three qualification games, and certainly losing won`t end our hopes of qualifying from the group, but winning or drawing will be considered as hugely positive outcomes, with the supposedly easier games to follow and I am betting that both Hodgson and Blanc would privately take the draw now in the hope and expectation of gaining enough points from the Ukraine and Sweden games, especially if their game later doesn`t find a winner.
This is why I expect Hodgson to start with a team that is solid and perhaps look to pace later in the game against what I see as a vulnerable French defence. Many of the starting XI places would appear nailed on, but in what is going to be very hot conditions, substitutions will be key and perhaps saving the lightening quick legs of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain might be best served for later on, as opposed to starting against an opposition that are sure to be drilled into the mantra of not conceding early, just as England themselves are sure to have been.
Elsewhere, I do worry over the balance and fitness of the back four over anywhere else in the team and the loss of Gary Cahill or non selection of Rio Ferdinand will be very much on mine and others mind, if things don`t go well. I worry slightly over a pairing of Terry and Lesscott, with Terry being forced to move to the right for the left footed Lescott and I wonder if we would actually be better to consider either resting JTs suspect hamstring and promoting Phil Jagielka or simply starting the Everton man alongside Terry, in the acceptance that we need his experience and leadership at the back for this one?
Attack is the only other 50/50 call for Roy, as he has to decide on which of Welbeck or Carroll to lead the attack. This for me is the easiest decision of those he has to make, again with a consideration of the heat and tired legs to consider.
My starting XI is as follows: Hart; Johnson, Jagielka, Terry, Cole; Milner, Parker, Gerrard, Downing; Young and Welbeck. I do believe that if his hamstring is healed enough, this is a game for Terry to marshal the back line, and also he needs to play in his favoured role, with Ashley Cole beside him, as they know each other`s game so well. This leaves the inclusion of Phil Jagielka as a logical selection, with Phil Jones perhaps running Glen Johnson close at right back, for what I see as his better defensive qualities, but if we are to play Milner and Downing, we need the overlap qualities at full back, otherwise we are going to struggle to counter France in pace and numbers, which is surely our plan. Therefore Johnson is the right man to start, even if he is at best the third best right back in the country.
I can see our midfield being key for this game. The defensive performance of Scott Parker with Steven Gerrard and the work put in by the other two will be the difference between getting a result or being miserable losers here. I can see logic in the idea of using Downing and Milner to add solidity and also stop the supply to the likes of Nasri and Ribery, but also to get quick ball to the pacy Young and Welbeck to test what I see as a very average French defence. Downing for Liverpool may have been rubbish, but I think he does a decent job in an England shirt that is vastly underrated and he and Milner may not be the flair players that many would like to see, but they are very much "Team first" which in a game like this will be vital and something I believe that Hodgson is spot on to start with, if of course he does.
If I am honest, I feel that France have the better players, more settled structure and formation and are a team in form, but I also can see England as becoming increasingly hard to beat and if we can keep the ball from their biggest threats in Nasri, Ribery, Benzema, I can see them getting frustrated and who knows allow us to get something here, and put ourselves in a strong position going into the Sweden game this Friday. At least I can dream positive dreams for a few more hours anyway...
Date:Monday June 11 2012
Delfouneso Replaces McManaman (Monday May 20 2013)
Carroll Worthy Of Return (Monday May 20 2013)
McManaman Ruled Out (Saturday May 18 2013)
Captain Cole? (Saturday May 18 2013)
Dream Come True For McCarthy (Saturday May 18 2013)
Pearce On His Squad (Saturday May 18 2013)
England squad announced. (Thursday May 16 2013)
ITV Secure England Games (Thursday May 16 2013)
Another Young Coach Earmarked (Wednesday May 15 2013)
Ferdinand (Finally) Calls Time On England (Wednesday May 15 2013)
|Delfouneso Replaces McManaman
» England : 20/05/2013 11:49:00
|Carroll Worthy Of Return
» England : 20/05/2013 10:31:00
|McManaman Ruled Out
» England : 18/05/2013 14:05:00
» England : 18/05/2013 11:22:00
|Dream Come True For McCarthy
» England : 18/05/2013 10:43:00
|Pearce On His Squad
» England : 18/05/2013 10:15:00
|England squad announced.
» England : 16/05/2013 16:29:00