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

CityPress - - Sport -

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.

PHOTO: MIKE HE­WITT / GETTY IMAGES

FRINGES TAL­IS­MAN Tot­ten­ham’s Harry Kane is ex­pected to lead Eng­land’s strike-force at Euro 2016

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