EURO 2012 team preview: England

4 June 2012

Written by: Shane Palmer Palmer

Expect to see the ever-colourful and boisterous England fans travel in their thousands to EURO 2012 (image: Zulfinho via wikimedia)

FIFA World Ranking:

7th

Group opponents:

Group D:

v. France – June 11 – Donbass Arena, Donetsk

v. Sweden – June 15 – Olympic Stadium, Kyiv

v. Ukraine – June 19 – Donbass Arena, Donetsk

The road to the championship:

England qualified for EURO 2012 topping Group G with five wins and three draws. The Three Lions breezed past Bulgaria and Switzerland in the first two matches, 4-0 and 3-1 respectively, but began to stutter following draws with Montenegro and Switzerland, both at Wembley.

England returned to form in their away tie in Bulgaria, beat Wales at home, and then played out a 2-2 draw in Montenegro to finish first in their group, earning automatic qualification for the tournament. Darren Bent, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Jermaine Defoe all lead the goal-scoring, with three goals each.

Yet, the road to EURO 2012 was by no means smooth for England. Manager Fabio Capello decided to adopt a 4-3-3 formation, shying away from the traditionally British 4-4-2, which produced mixed success for his side. While Ashley Young and Scott Parker emerged as first-choice players, the Andy Carroll experiment was largely unsuccessful, and starting no. 9, Darren Bent, became injured in the lead-up to the tournament.

While its form on the pitch was both good and bad, the biggest crisis England faced was the exit of Capello who resigned after John Terry was stripped of the captaincy. Capello cited the FA undermining him as his main reason; as the Italian wished to be able to make his own selections with the team, without the interference of the governing body.

Past success:

Third place: 1968

Semi-finalists: 1996

…and imagine if:

Star Players:

Scott Parker – Parker has enjoyed a stellar first season for Tottenham, emerging as one of the first names on both the Spurs and England’s team sheets. Parker was snapped up by Harry Redknapp at the start of the season, arriving from the relegated West Ham for around $8.5 million. A boyhood Spurs fan, Parker’s metronomic performances in the midfield helped his side finish fourth in the Barclays Premier League.

Parker is usually deployed in a holding role in England’s three-man midfield when they set up in a 4-3-3. Parker is often the key link-man in the English midfield, buzzing around in a similar fashion to Xavi of Spain or Schweinsteiger of Germany. Parker will be crucial in breaking up the opposition’s attacking forays toward the England goal, as he essentially sweeps in-front of his back-four.

Parker also has a capacity to lead the side, having captained England in February against Holland, in a friendly at Wembley.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, unsung hero Owen Hargreaves was voted England’s best player after a number of fantastic performances in the midfield. If England are to succeed in Poland and the Ukraine, they will need Parker to fill the mould set in 2006 by Hargreaves and boss the midfield, enabling his side’s star forwards a wealth of possession up front.

Wayne Rooney – arguably England’s best striker over the last five years, Rooney all-but embodies everything about the Three Lions: extremely talented, full of passion, possessing enormous potential; yet always liable to either crack or go missing at the most crucial of times.

In the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Rooney enjoyed a hugely-successful season for Manchester United, scoring 34 goals and winning the PFA Players’ Player of the Year. Yet, he was largely un-influential in South Africa, as England was eliminated in their second-round clash with Germany.

The 2011/12 season has seen Rooney play well overall, but there have been a number of games where he has simply gone missing. If England is to be a real contender at EURO 2012, Rooney has to start scoring for them again – having not scored at an international tournament since EURO 2004.

While he will miss England’s first two matches due to suspension, Rooney’s involvement will be vital in the latter stages of the tournament.

Player to watch out for:

Danny Welbeck ­– Welbeck had a breakthrough season at Manchester United, often chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson as the preferred strike partner for Rooney. Welbeck possesses enormous but raw talent, and scored 17 goals for United in 2011/12. He was singled out by Rooney as United’s player of the season.

Welbeck is tall, fast, strong and skilful, and with Darren Bent injured; the 21 year old will challenge Andy Carroll for the no. 9 spot in England’s line-up.

The Coach:

Roy Hodgson – the former West Bromwich Albion manager was assigned to the England post at the begging of May, just over a month out from the start of the tournament. Hodgson joined WBA in February 2011, and enjoyed a successful spell at the Hawthorns, guiding the club to successive mid-table finishes.

His work with West Bromwich helped to erase the memory of his disastrous stint at Liverpool manager; that only lasted some 31 games – the shortest in the club’s history.

While Hodgson always viewed as a potential candidate to take over from Fabio Capello, his appointment came as a shock; considering how strongly-linked Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was to the job.

Hodgson has a wealth of managerial experience, with a career that spans all the way back to 1976, when he took on the coaching reigns of Halmstad in Sweden. At the club level, Hodgson has won eight league trophies in different European competitions, as well as guiding Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010. Internationally, ‘Uncle Roy’ has managed Switzerland, UAE and Finland.

Classic EURO moment:

EURO ’96 – England v The Netherlands

“Football’s coming home” was the catchphrase for the 1996 tournament held in England – and the Lightning Seeds’ ‘Three Lions’ arguably remains the greatest football song in history. The English played fantastic football in the group stages, drawing their first match 1-1 against the Swiss, as well as beating rivals Scotland 2-0 in the next match. But, the last group match saw arguably one of the Three Lions’ greatest ever performances, when they defeated the much-fancied Netherlands 4 – 1. Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham ran a riot up front, bagging two goals each. England was eventually knocked out by eventual champions Germany in the semi-final, but the tournament will always be remembered for England finally looking dangerous at an international tournament, 30 years on from the 1966 World Cup final.

Prediction:

The Three Lions will go into EURO 2012 with a huge burst of confidence – partly stirred up via the Fleet Street tabloids – and will probably look the goods in the group stage. While England’s group is nowhere near as tough as Group C (Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia) – it won’t be easy to win, and thus avoid the winner of Group C. Should England go into their group with a similar attitude to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the result in Poland and the Ukraine may mirror that of South Africa.

Yet, it has been a long time since England has looked the best side in Europe. While they managed a win over Spain at Wembley last November, the departure of manager Fabio Capello seems to have disrupted the side, whose preparations for the tournament have been virtually opposite to favourites like Germany, Holland or Spain.

Injuries have plagued England’s preparation, with Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry,Jack Wilshire and Gary Cahill all ruled out from the tournament.

England will probably draw their opening game against the French; scrape a draw with Sweden, then beat Ukraine in the last match to qualify for the quarter finals. If they finish second in their group, they’ll be drawn against the winner of group C, which is most likely to be Spain. And that may be too far for this English side.

Shane Palmer is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe, and is part of the upstart editorial team. You can follow him on Twitter: @SDPalmer12.

upstart will be providing regular updates throughout the tournament, so stay tuned.