Euro 2016: Youthful England need to make their mark
England breezed through qualifying but experience has taught us not to read too much into that
If the English hadn’t learned the hard way down the years that coasting through the qualifiers means next to nothing most of the time, then there would be a building sense of excitement across the water. Instead, the media, in particular, has swung completely the other way with some of the assessments of this side’s prospects incredibly negative. Roy Hodgson has some curious problems, not least how and where to best use his captain Wayne Rooney who, despite having been the team’s top scorer in qualifying, now looks set to be bumped out of the frontline to accommodate players whose club form this season has made them almost impossible to leave out. The team does look to have goals in it and there is potentially a tasty attacking edge to the midfield and full-back positions but the defence will again be a concern and Joe Hart, for all his quality, always looks to have a mistake in him. For all that, the draw has been kind and if they can win the group to set up a meeting with a third placed side then, quite possibly Austria or Portugal, the semi-finals are not remotely out of the question.
How they qualified
With ease. England were the only team to qualify for Euro 2016 with a 100 per cent record, winning all 10 of their games on the road to France. That they did so while conceding three goals and scoring 31 perhaps says more about the rest of qualification Group E than it does about England. Switzerland were identified as the main threat to England’s claims on top spot but they were dispatched easily in Basel in the opening game thanks to two Danny Welbeck goals, and a year later at Wembley the score line was identical, with Wayne Rooney scoring his 50th goal for England. Roy Hodgson’s England have rarely struggled in qualification for major tournaments, the issue has been making it count when they get there.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
These European Championships are likely to be Roy Hodgson’s final major tournament after four years in charge, with his current FA deal expiring in the summer. The chances of him being offered a new contract rest on England’s performances in France and public opinion of Hodgson after the competition, which suggests a semi-final place is the bare minimum for the 68-year-old. Hodgson’s tenure has been largely stable but has been tarnished by crushing disappointments at Euro 2012 and particularly the 2014 World Cup where England failed to make it out of their group. He has a group of exciting young players at his disposal this summer, and England fans will just be hoping he actually uses them
Star man: Harry Kane
Wayne Rooney has been seen as England’s star man for more than a decade now but the nation’s top goalscorer is a spent force and hasn’t delivered nearly enough performances of late to suggest he will guide his side to glory this summer. So, step forward Harry Kane. Many thought the Tottenham Hotspur striker was a flash in the pan but he has proved he is the real deal this season, inspiring Spurs’ improbable, albeit ultimately doomed, title charge. Kane scores goals, stretches defences and links play brilliantly, and he should start as England leading centre forward in France.
One to Watch: Dele Alli
Another Tottenham player, Alli has enjoyed an exceptional debut season in the Premier League following his move from MK Dons. After he produced another brilliant performance against Stoke City, Alli said his target was to play more than 10 fixtures, but instead he is in double figures for goals. Originally played deeper he has flourished in a more advanced role with less responsibility, and the 20-year-old has to be a starter for Hodgson.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Betrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).
What President Trump says...
“The English love me. I’ve met them all. The Queen, Elton John. Tremendous people. I would have slept with Princess Diana without hesitation.”