Every two years, England fans like myself, who have spent 18 months complaining about how terrible the team is, somehow develop an irrational sense of optimism about the upcoming tournament. This summer Roy Hodgson and his 23 players will fly to France, in the hope that they can be the first England team to win a major championship since 1966.
And why not?
Somehow, it appears that I have once again fallen into the England football trap, believing all the media ‘hype’ which surrounds the England team. I honestly believe that England can achieve success at the upcoming championships.
The obvious distinction that I have made however, is that I don’t believe England can win at EURO 2016, but that they have the capacity to get this football-mad country to the edge of their seats, with a brand of exciting football rarely seen in European competitions.
In my eyes, the revised structure of EURO 2016, means that there is a clear distinction for England between failure and success. Unlike in previous tournaments, 24 teams have qualified to the finals rather than 16 as in 2012. Of these teams, two thirds will progress to the last 16. As a result, England fans could be fooled into thinking the early stages of this competition would be a formality. In actual fact, I believe winning their group would be essential to any success England can have at this year’s competition.
Winning the Group is Essential
Roy Hodgson’s initial 26-man squad held just 511 caps between them, less than 20 per player. Taking out Wayne Rooney reduces the average caps of the squad to just 16 each. This demonstrates that this England squad is young and fresh upon the international scene.
From the perspective of the fans, this can only act as a relief, to be finally past the expectations that came along with the ‘golden generation.’ On top of this, many of these new England internationals have had fantastic seasons, with Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Dele Alli some of the top performers in the premier league.
However, I feel that this England side has only one ‘big win’ in them. By this, I mean that I don’t think this England side yet has the consistency or fluidity to develop a rhythm enough to win consecutive matches against well organised opposition.
“What England must do in order to achieve success at the tournament is to focus on their competitive advantage over the other sides: power and raw pace”
The opportunity to catch one of the big teams off-guard, such as Spain or Italy, is possible yet unrepeatable. England go into this tournament as a relative unknown, and thus, if they manage to avoid a big team in the early stages of the competition they may manage to go unchallenged into the quarter-final.
This however harks back to my previous point, regarding the importance of England winning their group. If England fail to do so, they will inevitably draw a big name in the round of 16. If this happens, the chance of ultimate success for England will be significantly worsened, with the idea of England knocking out multiple big sides seeming faintly ridiculous.
Formation, Formation, Formation
All this said, if Roy Hodgson does chose to play with both Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane up front together, as many fans are demanding, England will be a nuisance to the best of sides. What England must do in order to achieve success at the tournament is to focus on their competitive advantage over the other sides: power and raw pace.
England are not the best footballing side going to the Euros. They are not going to out-pass Spain, they are not going to out-think Germany and they are not going to play the slick brand of football that the best France sides can produce.
“We can only hope that the recent success of English players in the premier league develops into strong performances on the international stage”
What they do have, however, is two of the most in-form strikers in European football, and a focus on allowing these two players to reach their maximum capacity will ensure a successful tournament.
This means playing some 4-4-2 formation variant, (most likely with a midfield diamond) with both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy starting centrally, rather than shifting Vardy out wide, or worse to the bench. On top of this, Roy Hodgson faces the tough task of trying to shoehorn both Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney into the same side, without losing all defensive structure to the side.
Overall, I believe England can achieve success at the Euros, assuming they focus on their own football, and take the tournament game by game. We can only hope that the recent success of English players in the premier league develops into strong performances on the international stage.
Ultimately, reaching the quarter finals would probably be a fair estimation of the England squad, while reaching any further stage could only be seen as a great success and a step in the right direction for English football.
Realistic Prediction: Quarter Finals.
Optimistic Prediction: Semi Finals & Harry Kane is top goal scorer.
Featured image courtesy of ‘Nazionale Calcio’ via Flickr.
Video courtesy of ‘FATV’ via YouTube.