Among you readers Germany are clear favourites to win the Euro 2012 tournament. With 40 % of all the votes, there are no question about which team you believe in.
Germany is also one of the teams that I had predicted as one of the strongest before the tournament and yesterday’s display against Portugal showed of what they are capable of. Strong as always in defense and straightforward and effective when going forward, they look like the German national team that we are used to. Another thing that speaks for Germanys chances this time is the fact that most of the players are in their best age as footballers right now.
Spain was the team with the second most votes in the poll. 17 % of you believed that Spain will regain their title from the European Championships in 2008. Only 8 % believed in Holland as the winners of Euro 2012. Based on yesterday’s performance against Denmark it seems as if your expectations are justified.
The expectations have never been lower on an English National team before a major tournament. Perhaps this could be as reason to finally can reach all the way?
Not much suggest that England will be successful in this tournament. Injuries on key players like Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Gareth Barry. Wayne Rooney, which is the only world-class player in the squad, is also suspended for the first two games of the tournament. In addition to that Fabio Capello resigned earlier this year and was replaced by Roy Hodgson, who just had two games to test his players before the tournament.
If we take an objective look at the team, we see that in defense looks solid with a world-class goalkeeper in Joe Hart and two players that just have won the Champions League with Chelsea. Although Gary Cahill’s injury was bad for England, his replacement Joleon Lescott has had a solid relationship with Hart all year with Manchester City and shouldn’t be a security risk for his team.
The problems start with the offensive parts of the team. Not many of the expected starters in the offensive parts of the team have had an good season in their teams. Steven Gerrard has in many of the games this season only been a shadow of the player that we are used to see, much of course due to the injuries that he has had lately. James Milner hasn’t been a regular starter for Manchester City this season, although he has played quite good when has got his chance. Scott Parker is one of the few players from midfield upwards that has played the whole of the season in a good and solid style. But just as there weren’t enough with problems, he has also been a question mark before the tournament with an injury.
With Rooney suspended and Darren Bent injured, the options aren’t many among the forwards. Right now it looks as if Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck are the only options to take the place as the only pure striker in the line-up. Although Danny Welbeck scored the winner against Belgium, Andy Carroll is the likely starter against France in the opening game for England. Andy Carroll has had a difficult first season for Liverpool, but his displays in the last month of Premier League action showed what he is capable of. England will need him in his best form to overcome the absence of Rooney. The game is likely to become more straightforward with Carroll in the team than it otherwise would be.
Roy Hodgson – better than his reputation?
Roy Hodgson has a somewhat tainted reputation in England after his unsuccessful time as a manager for Liverpool. He is mainly known as a manager who good at getting the best out of poor teams, like for example WBA and Fulham. What does this mean for England and their team?
The people that know him from his early days as a manager may recall that he started his career in Halmstad BK in Sweden in 1976. A team that was predicted to end in the bottom of the table before the beginning of the season. Most people were surprised when the team went on to win the league in their first season with Hodgson as manager.
Hodgson is nowadays known in Sweden as the manager that brought the 4-4-2 formation to the country, with press and support and man against man marking. A system that laid the foundation for the success that Malmo FF and later IFK Gothenburg had in European football. The ideas were inspired by Allen Wade’s book “FA Guide to Training and Coaching”. In his book Wade gave emphasis to idea of changing the tempo in the games, by constantly keeping an eye on the space between the players. The system required a high degree of concentration from the players as all of the players had to take part in defending obligations.
Hodgson has continued with these ideas virtually through his entire career. In all of the teams that he has managed, he has begun to build the team around the defensive aspects of the game. In some of the places, he has been criticized for not sufficiently developing the creative aspects of the game and for being boring. But in most of the places, as for example the Swiss National team and Fulham, the success of his teams has silenced his critics. It wasn’t until he failed in Liverpool that the criticism was generally considered justifiable.
In the case of the English National team, it is almost impossible to predict what impact he can have on the team. Like before, he is expected to build the team from behind. A task that is hard enough, given all the injuries in the defensive line lately. Another thing to expect from him is that he will probably go for a quick and straightforward attacking play. In other words, not completely unlike England under Capello.
The biggest challenge is to get the game working in the short time that he has with the team before the tournament and to find the ideal line-up that will be able to get the best out of his ideas. Although many thought that Harry Redknapp would have been the best option for England, I’m of another opinion. In order to succeed in Euro 2012, England will be dependent on how disciplined they are when defending. Hodgson if anyone, is the right man for the job.
England played with a 4-4-2 formation in the last game before Euro 2012 against Belgium, with Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck as the two strikers. In that game James Milner took the role as right winger. In the opening game against France I expect Walcott to start instead of Oxlade-Chamberlain, which means that Young will take his place on the left side with Milner taking the place in the middle of midfield.
Another option could be to place Milner alongside Parker as a defending midfielder, although Gerrard is likely to be in that role. Andy Carroll is likely to take the role as the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Welbeck doubtful due to injury.