A look at England’s chances at the Euros
With Euro 2016 underway, TEAMtalk Media looks at what chances Roy Hodgson’s England charges have at the tournament
The Three Lions have won only a single major international tournament in their long and surprisingly disappointing history: the 1966 World Cup, which incidentally was also the first and last time they appeared in a final. So it will be a given that Roy Hodgson’s England players, who kicked-off their campaign against Russia last night, would be aiming to win their first European Championship trophy.
A superficial assessment of the quality in their squad suggests that this year could be one that sees them shrug off their reputation as a side that struggles with the pressures of knockout football.
What England may lack in the way of a genuine talisman like Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cristiano Ronaldo or Antoine Griezmann, they make up for in depth of class, specifically at the sharp end of their formation.
Likely strike partners Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy may only have three impressive Premiership seasons between them and neither have a capacity for the spectacular, but in terms of pure finishing ability, few can boast more aptitude.
Marcus Rashford and Daniel Sturridge are two players who have the pace and technical ability, respectively, to jog onto the field and turn a match on its head.
Dele Alli’s remarkable ability to put a teammate into space has made him one of the most talked-about young players in Europe, while in Eric Dier, James Milner, Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill, Hodgson has midfield and centre-back pairings capable of containing and thwarting any danger.
And, as he showed against Portugal, when Kyle Walker blows hot, his pace can be terrifying to opposition defences.
On the topic of the Portugal match, it is tempting to attach too much weight to England’s uninspired performance against 10 men, especially since the manager fielded what is likely to be his starting eleven. However, few, if not all of the competition’s high-profile teams failed to impress, rendering such a comparison mostly meaningless.
A more valid area of assessment is one that is likely to make or break England’s tournament: How to get the best out of the team while accommodating the seemingly mandatory presence of Wayne Rooney.
The 31-year-old’s preferred position is a topic of such debate that it may come to define the latter part of a career that once promised genuine greatness.
Rooney simply isn’t ruthless enough in front of goal to warrant a place alongside Kane or Vardy. Meaning that the only way to accommodate him is in a central, albeit slightly deep-lying, position, as was the case against Portugal.
This, however, means that the two aforementioned marksmen are forced wide and denied the opportunity to play off each other - the most important aspect of a successful strike partnership.
Moving him wide means that a new formation is necessary - one that precludes two strikers - which doesn’t solve anything.
The lack of a genuine threat in their group means that qualifying for the first knockout round is a virtual certainty, but if Hodgson doesn’t manage to find a solution to the Rooney conundrum it’s almost impossible to see them beating any of the competition’s classier sides.
FRINGES TALISMAN Tottenham’s Harry Kane is expected to lead England’s strike-force at Euro 2016