Goalkeepers: Fraser Foster, Joe Hart, Tom Heaton
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand, Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Danny Rose, Chris Smalling, John Stones, Kyle Walker
Midfield: Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Fabian Delph, Eric Dier, Danny Drinkwater, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere.
Attackers: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Jamie Vardy.
Not much of a surprise here with Roy sticking to the usual formula. Only four players (Barkley, Heaton, Stones and Townsend) are from clubs outside the top ten of the Premier League although I’m not sure if I’d count both Heaton and Townsend as ‘Championship’ players as Burnley were promoted and Newcastle were relegated.
Once again, none of the squad plays his club football outside of England.
Eleven of this squad were chosen for the ill fated 2014 World Cup equivalent, although John Stones was on standby for that tournament. Only Cahill, Hart, Milner and Rooney were picked for the Euro 2012 squad.
The defenders look very inexperienced. Bertrand, Rose and Stones all have fewer than ten caps, with Walker having earned less than 20.
Hodgson clearly isn’t depending on his midfielders to score. Andros Townsend is the most prolific goalscorer from that group with three in 10 appearances. Having written that, it’s worth remembering that Roy still has to make three cuts and although we already know Marcus Rashford won’t make the final 23, Delph, Dier and Drinkwater may be amongst those facing the axe.
I think that this is the first tournament where we see who is the heir apparent to Wayne Rooney. Harry Kane is the obvious choice.
Want to feel old? Both Danny Rose and Jordan Henderson were born while the 1990 World Cup tournament was being held in Italy. Marcus Rashford was born ten days before the 0-0 draw with Italy in November 1997, when England qualified for France 98.
Today was supposed to be the day when Roy Hodgson announced the England squad for Euro 2016, but following yesterday’s unverified leak and the announcement that Danny Welbeck is out until the early part of 2017, the squad will now not be announced until Monday.
I’ll be back as soon as details are released on Monday.
Originally the idea was that we’d take a sabbatical after the 2014 World Cup: a rest after the worst English performance in the biggest tournament in the world seemed like a good idea. However after the draw for the Euro 2016 qualifying groups it seemed pretty obvious that England would qualify and so there didn’t seem to be much point getting too involved with those games: I wrote here that the qualifiers ‘…quite frankly should be a piece of cake and a bit of a joke.’
Ten wins and a goal difference of +28 justified that decision, but I’ve got to admit that the lack of activity here took me by surprise, especially as I’ve been regularly blogging elsewhere. So it’s time to make a reappearance.
Tomorrow Roy Hodgson will be announcing the squad for Euro 2016, even though there seems to have been quite a convincing leak doing the rounds on the social media. Looking back at the side that played Costa Rica two years ago in England’s last competitive game in the finals of a major competition compared with the team that lost 2-1 at home to the Netherlands, only Chris Smalling and Adam Lallana started in both.
So after two posts in almost two years, there’ll be two posts in as many days – with more to come in the build up for Euro 2016. Thank you for your patience. It’s good to be back.
New content (finally), including an affectionate tribute to Sepp Blatter and a post about how success in the qualifiers is no guarantee of success of finals.
Although I am not entirely sure that last one is a new topic…
To some extent, I suppose that the disappointment of being knocked out of the World Cup so early is a good thing: no excruciating penalty shootouts to sit through this time.
On the other hand, the usual post mortems, excuses and eulogies – which are always prepared in advance – were trundled out a fortnight or so before they normally would be. I’ve dodged the worst of the finger pointing that’s been going on, but over the past few days since the defeat to Uruguay it’s been unavoidable. Harry Redknapp in particularly seems to have been experiencing some sort of Schadenfreude, but I suppose that’s to be expected from him. Would he have done any better? Who cares.
For what it’s worth, my take on the last couple of weeks is as follows:
Defensively England are in a very bad spot. Rooney’s appearance on the left side of the field against Italy was a tactical experiment that failed, but Rooney is an offensive player, not a defensive one. The real problem was that the defensive players were both inexperienced and not good enough: it’s now very clear that John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole will be very difficult to replace, just as Carles Puyol’s absence clearly had an impact on Spain.
Spare a thought for Steven Caulker too – if Andre Vilas-Boas hadn’t been stupid enough to sell him to Cardiff, there’s a reasonable chance Caulker might have made enough of an impression at Spurs to have earned a place in the squad. It wasn’t his fault Cardiff were relegated.
Offensively the two performances weren’t too bad: if you watch the highlights of the Uruguay game, it could have easily ended 4-3 to either side. Raheem Sterling lived up to expectations but the question marks about whether Wayne Rooney is a genuinely world class striker remain. He’s got one World Cup left and he needs to remember that, but the bigger problem is that neither Wellbeck nor Sturridge were that impressive and Ricky Lambert is too old to be a serious long term option.
Despite the odd yet still cliched mixture of downbeat and optimistic statements emanating from the senior players and management following the elimination, I think we’ve got some serious problems to face over the next couple of years. I’m not sure any of the squad have been entirely realistic about their chances of continuing their international careers: there doesn’t seem to be any doubt amongst them that they are international class players, although it’s fairly clear to those of us looking on that some of them clearly aren’t.
If anything, the two games were uniquely English performances. Shorn of their talented foreign clubmates, England looked like a mid table Championship side (and I know exactly what that looks like): a couple of decent prospects mixed in with some gnarled old pros who have had better days and a few that were promising a decade ago but never quite made it. The fact that Suarez and Balotelli were identified as the main goalscoring threats but still managed to score three goals in two games will have been a nice little earner for the punters that play the ‘anytime goalscorer’ markets between August and May.
After the Costa Rica game, the next matches are in September. The first is a friendly against Norway and the second is the Eur0 2014 qualifier against Switzerland. If something sensational happens tomorrow, I’ll be back then: otherwise enjoy the summer.
A couple of weeks ago, if I’d written Thursday 31st May 1962 and Tuesday 3rd June 1986 you might have thought I was just mentioning random dates. True, some notable events took place on both days: Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel on the last day of May ’62 and tennis superstar Rafa Nadal was born on 3rd June 1986.
From an England point of view, the same thing happened on those dates as what happened last Saturday night. England lost their opening group game in the World Cup finals. Hungary won 2-1 in Rancagua, Chile courtesy of goals from Lajos Tichy and Florian Albert (Ron Flowers scored an equaliser from the penalty spot) in front of almost 8000 spectators; just over 24 years later about three times as many more fans attended the game against Portugal in Monterrey, Mexico which England lost by a single goal from Carlos Manuel about 15 minutes from time.
Youtube clips here:
Lost in all the pessimism about where or whether Wayne Rooney should be playing is the fact that England reached the quarter finals – and lost to the eventual winners – in both of those tournaments. Admittedly, the quarter finals began straight after the group stages in ’62 but the format in 1986 was more or less the same as it is now. And things got a lot worse in 1986: the second game was a goalless draw against Morocco that featured Ray Wilkins earning two yellow cards in as many minutes immediately before half time.
It’s worth remembering that England have only lost two of their thirteen ‘middle’ group games and both of those defeats (0-1 v USA in 1950 and 1-2 v Romania in 1998) came after we’d won our first game. However, it would be amiss of me not to mention that we don’t have a great record against Uruguay though: only two wins in nine games (the last coming in Montevideo in June 1969!) and that we’ve won neither of our World Cup finals games against them (1954 quarter final and 1966 group game).
But here’s arguably the most surreal stat of the lot: from 1966 onwards, only one player from South America has scored against England in the group stages.
Some of you may remember him. Enjoy the game.
The funny thing about the 2014 World Cup is that after years of getting far too excited by the prospect of two draws, a win and a defeat by penalties in the knockout stages, the message from the FA is probably a little too downbeat this time round.
Combined with the controversy over the awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar and the race against time to finish the stadia (and who would have seen both of those coming, he added sarcastically), there’s a general feeling that somehow this World Cup will not be up to the standards that have been set recently. At the time he made it, Greg Dyke’s throat slashing gesture was supposed to represent his feelings about the draw for the group stage, but given his rather ridiculous recent proposals about ‘League 3’ it might have a sign of some sort of career hara kiri. Or maybe it was neither of those things but a warning to Sepp Blatter about staying on as FIFA president after 2014.
At first glance, Dyke was probably right in thinking that the draw hadn’t been kind to us. Since 1994, we’ve never had two top ten FIFA ranked countries in the same group as us. Yet when we faced sides from countries ranked in the top ten, we’ve won both games – against Colombia in 1998 and Argentina in 2002. Then there’s the fact that England have won actually won half of their last 12 group stage games and have only lost once in the same period – against Romania in 1998.
Goals have been scarce though. Although we haven’t scored more than two goals in a group game since Gary Lineker’s hat-trick against Poland in 1986, on the positive side England have only been shut out twice in the group stages since 1998 – and lost neither of those games – and have kept eight clean sheets in the last dozen matches.
So how about our opponents?
Far, far too much time has been spent discussing the Italians and Uruguayans as if they’ve only got one player. Andrea Pirlo and Luis Suarez are undoubtedly world class players but there are another ten men on each side. From 1994 onwards, Italy have only won half of their six group stage games against European opposition and in that time frame the last time they played UEFA opposition in their group opener they lost to the Republic of Ireland in New Jersey.
As for Uruguay, they’ve not beaten a European side in the group stages since they beat France in 1966 and haven’t even scored against European opposition at group stage for 12 years. Despite having Suarez – and there’s no guarantee how fit he is – they aren’t Liverpool and they were very fortunate they came up against Jordan in the playoffs.
Oh and I almost forgot: the FIFA rankings are useful for something. From ’94 onwards, only 50% of the highest ranked teams according to the FIFA numbers published in the May immediately before the World Cup actually won their group. For Group D, that figure drops to 20%. Highest ranked team in our group: Uruguay.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start indulging in wishful thinking. I’m concerned that we’ll be too conservative against Italy tomorrow night even though a win would take a lot of the pressure off for the next two games and even losing wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m also worried that we’ve only actually won our qualifying group once in the last six four attempts because – with the greatest respect to the teams in Group C – we might be facing weaker opposition in the first knock out round than we did in our group. And then there’s the fact that the last five World Cup winners all won their groups.
Overall, it’s not as bad as it looks. The last time expectations were as low as they are now was when ‘World In Motion’ came out: Hillsborough the year before, a disastrous performance at Euro 88 and then having to face two of the teams that had beaten us in that competition in the World Cup in Italy. We all know how that ended, but almost a quarter of a century later it’s time for another decent run at the semi finals.
This is where it starts getting a bit odd, primarily because this is clearly the weaker half of the draw – but there are still some potential surprises.
Of the sixteen teams in Groups E to H inclusive, only one country (France) has won the World Cup in the last two decades. Only the Germans have reached the final over the same period and just two of the remaining countries – Portugal and South Korea – have reached the semi finals since 1990.
The French are clear favourites to win this section even though Switzerland have been ahead of them in the FIFA rankings for almost two years and could be a genuine surprise contender. The key game appears to be the first match in the group (Switzerland v Ecuador, Sunday 15th June, 5pm, ITV) but if that ends all square it may be a case of who scores the most goals against Honduras – with the Swiss facing the Hondurans last in Manaus on Wednesday 25th June (9pm, BBC1)
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Argentina have been as underwhelming as we have in recent World Cups and although I can see them winning the group and possibly getting to the quarter finals if they avoid France, that’s usually as far as they get. Although they’re the weakest European team, debutants Bosnia & Herzegovina look far stronger than Nigeria but although Iran have never qualified from the group stages they’re no mugs. If Bosnia & Herzegovina get stage fright and are soundly beaten by Argentina in their first game, Iran v Nigeria (Monday 16th June, 8pm BBC1) could be worth keeping an eye on.
The worrying thing about this edition of The Group Of Death is that if we count the West Germans as Germany, then this is the longest interval without a German team winning a World Cup since they first appeared in 1934. The 2014 final will be nine days after the 60th anniversary of their unexpected win against Hungary in the 1954 final and six days after the 40th anniversary of the West German win over the Netherlands in the 1974 final.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Ghana will be extremely fortunate to do anywhere as near as well as they did four years ago, so arguably the pick of the games in this group is Portugal v USA (Sunday 22nd June, 11:00pm, BBC1) purely because this is the best American team for a few years. At the other end of the scale, Germany v Ghana the day before could be one of the most one-sided games of the tournament.
With three of these countries having got no further than the second round since 1990, this may turn out to be a far more competitive group than it looks on paper and a lot hinges on how well the strongest Belgium side for a generation performs. Algeria are probably the best African team after Ivory Coast and could give Fabio Capello’s Russia headaches when they meet in their last group game if there’s a second round place up for grabs (Thursday 26th June, 9pm ITV). South Korea only qualified on goal difference from Uzbekistan and – along with Australia – are probably the weakest side in the competition.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the last pre-tournament analysis of England’s chances before the real thing starts…