France Coach Speaks Out On England Challenge

Regular contributor Thomas Rooney looks at Monday’s game between England and France.

Those looking to bet live on Euro 2012 will note that It is now just a few days to go until England take on France in their opening match of Euro 2012 and the coach of their opponents has been having his say on the threat the Three Lions possess.

Laurent Blanc, essentially, thinks that England will adopt a physical approach and that his side are in for a tough challenge. After going unbeaten since 2010, France are confident, but they know England will be difficult opponents.

The French boss said: “’They are not at full strength but what concerns me is that England will play in a certain style. We are going to have to be extremely strong physically. That is going to be a difficult match.”

‘“England will give everything because, when there are French against English, it raises the game above the normal international match. But we don’t fear them more than other teams.”

‘It is certainly an interesting theory that England will be physical. They will be well organised yes, but will they be overly physical? It seems a rather bizarre conclusion, but there you go.’

Roy Hodgson’Â’s men will of course look to be solid at the back and hit France on the counter attack, but it mustn’Â’t be forgotten that the Three Lions have some quality players.

If England sit back and let France attack them, it simply wonÂ’’t work. As much as they need to make defensive security their priority, England must be positive going forward and remember that the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and Steven Gerrard can be very dangerous.

France are more likely to come out all guns blazing though and for this reason, there could be quite a few goals. England just need to make sure they match BlancÂ’’s men and in the end, a draw wouldnÂ’’t be the worst result.

It is time for the talking to stop and the action to begin. Before it does though, England winger Stewart Downing has spoken about his sideÂ’s lack of fear when it comes to facing the French.

The Liverpool man said: “’We are confident we can get a result. We don’t fear them. We know they are a good team but so are we. We know their strength and weaknesses.’”

It is an interesting comment to say that England ‘know the strengths and weaknessesÂ’ and the French team. It’s clear that France could be devastating going forward,  but does Downing think France are weak in a certain area of defence?

The make up of the England team will probably tell all. Bring on Monday evening.

Sharp Fan Labs Survey Provides Fascinating Data

Jerry and I were recently approached by Sharp Fan Labs about analysing some of their data – they’re currently involved in a massive survey of European football fans.

When I saw some of the information that they’ve collected I knew that it would be something that our readers would be interested in, especially as Euro 2012 starts tomorrow. Although we’ve concentrated on England and the other teams in Group D, it’s fascinating to see how closely our attitudes match one of biggest rivals and how other countries see both themselves and us.

The first aspect that comes across about how we see England’s chances is that compared to past tournaments expectations seem to have been lowered. For example only 45% of the England fans have confidence in the both the team and Roy Hodgson – which might sound like a lot, but is not a great deal when it’s compared to the 74% of German fans that have confidence in the Nationalelf. In contrast, the French and Swedish fans are not as confident as we are but that may be because they know what they’re getting. Both Laurent Blanc and Erik Hamren have been in charge of their teams for longer than two games: we’re not even sure what the starting XI for next week’s game against France will be.

64% of English fans also think that the squad is lacking team spirit, which is the first of a number of aspects we share with French fans – to put it simply, neither ourselves nor our friends across the Channel believe that our respective teams have the necessary esprit de corps: between us we had the lowest scores of the countries that have taken part in the survey. To me that appears to be a similar attitude but for different reasons: the Premier League is not only far more tribal than the England national team (think of Evra/Suarez) but is also a bigger global brand that is popular around the world. To some extent that’s similar to Ligue 1, but my guess is that French fans remember the meltdowns that happened at Euro 2008 and the last World Cup: although Blanc seems to be doing a good job of preventing a repeat, one bad result for Les Bleus could burst the bubble.

Another area where we share common ground with the French fans is in terms of knowledge of past tournaments and the one that starts tomorrow. In this category, we occupied two of the top five places across the teams that qualified for Euro 2012 and easily outperformed the Swedes and Ukrainians – who filled two of the bottom three places. I’m not sure if that’s because a higher proportion of their fans from either of the latter countries only have a mild interest in the game: it could also be that they aren’t as obsessive as either ourselves or our French counterparts.

Before I go any further, it’s worth mentioning that the Swedish and Ukrainian fans scored higher in terms of ‘dedication’ than English and French fans. Dedication is hard to define: it could range from draping a flag out of your bedroom window or having your face painted with your flag to spending thousands of Pounds, Euros, Krone or Hryven following your side around Eastern Europe this summer. At the risk of sounding too cynical but with the experience of Euro 96, it’s probably far easier to be dedicated to your national team when they’re playing at home.

If you re-read the first four paragraphs, there seems to be a pattern emerging amongst followers of the countries in Group D. Both English and French fans seem to be less enthusiastic generally but more knowledgeable than their Swedish and Ukrainian contemporaries but as I mentioned earlier that could be based on the weight of unrealistic expectations and a general cynicism about the real motivation of the players. On the other hand, the Swedish and Ukrainian fans may take these tournaments less seriously than we do because their definition of success is more realistic and they perceive that players genuinely seem to appreciate the opportunity to both take part in them and to try to do well for their countries.

However, it’s never as straightforward as that. One of the best definitions of belief that I’ve come across is ‘confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof’ and having already mentioned a lack of confidence in the England team and manager, an impressive 71% of our fans believe England can win Euro 2012. That being said, the majority of fans across all countries in Group D believe their team can win Euro 2012: given past results, the 69% of French fans who believe their side can win the tournament probably have the best chance of not being disappointed.

The Spanish fans are the most confident that their team will win Euro 2012 – an astonishing 97% of them think that they can retain the title. It’s amazing what a bit of overdue success can do, but I would imagine that number sounds ridiculously over confident to everyone else, particularly as no country has ever won consecutive European Championships – and the two best players in La Liga are Argentinian and Portuguese.

Looking beyond Group D, there are a couple of very interesting results worth commenting on. Irish fans came first in both dedication and knowledge, which when you think about it isn’t that surprising. Only one of the Irish squad plays his club football in a country where English isn’t a first language (Aiden McGeady of Dinamo Moscow) and with over half the team playing in the Premier League it’s necessary for a typical Irish fan has to have a good knowledge of football outside his or her own country – something that’s not always the case with England fans.

Overall it’s a very interesting study especially as it seems to agree with the theory that there’s a much more realistic attitude from England fans than there has been before past tournaments. Possibly the most surprising thing for me was the similarities between French fans and ourselves, although frustration that we should both be doing better is important in that context as well as being an integral part of being a supporter at any level.

Although we don’t seem to have much confidence in the team (we also find them frustrating, lacking team spirit and undisciplined) when you learn that England are the fourth most feared team in the tournament and – behind Spain and Germany – the team that fans from other countries most want to beat this summer it’s actually surprisingly uplifting. Although we seem to be less optimistic about our chances than we normally are, at least we have some consolation: beating England is still seen as an achievement by fans in other countries.

That’s something that England fans and players alike should be both aware and proud of.

If It’s Saturday It Must Be Belgium

The last game before Euro 2012 starts next week looks as if it could turn into pep rally than a competitive game.

It’s probably fair to say that Belgian football has been in the doldrums for the last decade: the Red Devils haven’t qualified for a major tournament for over a decade and are currently one place above Wales in the UEFA Rankings. They missed out on the playoffs by two points, despite managing to score eight more goals than Turkey in their group but they looked up against it when they only drew 1-1 in Azerbaijan a year ago and basically had to beat Germany in Dusseldorf to stand a chance of getting to the playoffs. They were 3-0 down before the hour: that was that.

However – like the Norwegians last week – there are plenty of familiar names in the current Belgian squad. Vincent Kompany was captain of the Manchester City team that won the Premier League last season, Thomas Vermaelen is the heart of Arsenal’s defence and (as I have to explain to various family members when Everton are on telly) Marouane Fellaini is the tall bloke with the big hair.

I’ve deliberately left one name out, because those of us watching tomorrow night may have our lives transformed forever if Eden Hazard plays. Even though he has yet to kick a ball in anger for Chelsea, he’s obviously the best player in the universe right now and fans across the world waited with baited breath last week to see which English club he’d chose to play for. That’s presumably what he’d like us to think, although I’m reserving judgement to see how he does against Stoke at The Britannia Stadium before using any superlatives to describe him.

Regardless of Eden Hazard, history is on our side in this game. Belgium have never beaten us in England: the only time we’ve not beaten them at home in five previous encounters was also the last time they played at Wembley in October 1964. We last played against them at Sunderland in October 1999, when goals from current TV talking heads Jamie Redknapp and Alan Shearer ensured a 2-1 victory but the game was notable for Kevin Keegan giving Frank Lampard his international debut.

England are favourites to win the game, which kicks off at 5:15pm although ‘coverage’ starts at 4:30pm on ITV. That usually means bland interviews in poorly lit changing rooms, plenty of adverts encouraging you to buy beer/televisions/party food and at least one awful pun from whoever has been rounded up to provide punditry – although I don’t think they’re likely to use ‘the Belgians have surrendered again’, it’ll probably be something based on the EU.

I’ll be back with a quick roundup after the game finishes, but you’re in for a treat next week – a substantial preview piece and something a little different that I think you’ll enjoy.

Have a good long weekend and God Save The Queen.

 

The new England manager is in place, the team has been chosen. At last it’s game on for England and all the other European teams. Click here to check the Betting odds for Euro 2012.

Frank Lampard Ruled Out

After picking up a thigh strain on Wednesday afternoon, Frank Lampard is out of the England squad for Euro 2012. He’ll be replaced by Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson.

I’ll update this post tomorrow, but from where I’m sitting I wonder if this is the end of Lampard’s international career. He’ll be almost 36 by the time the World Cup takes place in Brazil in a couple of years time: I suppose it’s possible that he could take part in the qualifiers, but with the current squad containing younger, alternative options then it might be better if Roy Hodgson explores those possibilities.

Having said that, there won’t be any argument about whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together in midfield this summer. This could be a blessing in disguise, but I suspect that we might see an even more conservative England line up against France than we were expecting.

What Impact Can Ashley Young Have On Euro 2012?

Thomas Rooney takes a look at the goalscorer markets before Euro 2012 begins…

England kick off their European Champions on the 11th of June against France and they will need to be at their best to take all three points.

Those over at euro2012onlinebetting.com note how Ashley Young looks to be one of EnglandÂ’s biggest threats and the man who could set the tournament alight, especially with the suspension of Wayne Rooney for the first two matches.

Young was the goal scorer in the 1-0 victory over Norway in Oslo on Saturday, it was a moment of quality that brought the goal as the attacker went past his man with ease and placed the ball in the bottom corner extremely confidently.

The 26-year-old is certainly a threat with his raw pace and his ability to cut inside from the left wing and get a shot away. However, he looks like he may be playing a more central role in Euro 2012, lining up just behind Andy Carroll. They linked up well in the game over the weekend and seemed to have a real understanding with one another.

The Manchester United man has scored four goals in as many games in his recent appearances for The Three Lions, form that has gone under the radar somewhat. He also found the net six times for his club this campaign.

When Rooney does come back into the team, those assessing the top goalscorer over at euro2012onlinebetting.com/golden-boot  note how Young will be lining up with a teammate that he has enjoyed a lot of success with this year.

After a substantial spell on the sideline for The Red Devils earlier in the season, keeping up with the demands of tournament football could be difficult for the former Aston Villa man to do.

There is not a great deal of pressure on Young either which could play into his favour. Many people will be looking at the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Robin Van Persie and Mario Gomez to light up the tournament so he could surprise a few people.

If the Stevenage born winger plays to his full potential and players around him are on form he could cause opponents a lot of trouble and take England far in the tournament this summer.

Shock, Horror: England’s Victory Underplayed By Media

Norway’s Brede Hangeland thinks England are running on empty after a long season. Gary Lineker had a moan about the tactics on twitter. But an Ashley Young goal nine minutes into the game gave England a 1-0 win over Norway in Oslo on Saturday night. Lost in all the comments about how the second half was dull was the fact that Norway haven’t lost at home since June 2010 and have beaten both France and Portugal in Oslo since then. Isn’t winning while not playing particularly well something that we’ve always respected other countries for?

The other issue is that the outbreak of pessimism seems to be hiding another agenda: if England over perform this summer then all the pundits can slap each other on the back and spout nonsense about how they secretly felt that ‘the lads’ would do well all along. I’m sure a few people are convinced that England can repeat the unexpected triumph of the Danes in 1992, but the last time I looked there weren’t any civil wars in Europe we could exploit.

From my point of view, it was hardly an ideal start for Roy Hodgson. I was visiting my sister in law in a ‘nearby country’ and although we watched the first half live, we couldn’t watch the second half until we’d watched the Eurovision Song Contest, which featured a musical recreation of the England team from the mid 1970s by Englebert Humperdinck: on paper it probably seemed as if it was a good idea, but it was off key, not as good as many European rivals and ultimately a bit embarrassing. By the time we watched the recording of the second half of the game I’d had three pints of cider and knew what the final score was.

Moving on and the details of the final squad were handed in earlier today with two alterations from the original list. Jack Butland replaces John Ruddy who is getting married broke his finger and Phil Jagielka replaces Gareth Barry who picked up a groin injury in Oslo on Saturday night. While he was playing football, I hasten to add – I know he’s a Man Citteh player but I don’t think he’s visited any strip clubs recently.

Incidentally, Jagielka’s biography on Wikipedia is as interesting as it is confusing: his father was born in Zagreb, but later on it says that he has Polish and Scottish ancestry. In a parallel universe he’d be playing for the Republic of Ireland.

Last week we received a copy of the Foreign Office guidelines for travel to the Ukraine and without putting too finer point on it, the message was basically don’t travel if you’re black, Asian or obviously gay. I haven’t seen last night’s ‘Panorama’ about the racism in Poland and the Ukraine, but having some experience of watching football in Eastern Europe I can see how the issue could easily be sensationalised.  However, to claim that ‘Nazi symbols…can be seen at any any game in England’ as Ukrainian foreign minister Oleh Voloshyn has is a load of ****ocks and sounds like a statement from a man who clearly has been rattled.

On a lighter note, I also have some experience of watching football in the middle of a group of Polish fans – at a beach football tournament in Spain a few years ago. About ten minutes before Poland’s games were due to kick off, a group of about fifty or more Poles appeared from nowhere: decked out in replica shirts, waving flags and singing songs they kept going throughout the entire game before disappearing immediately afterwards – although some of them must have been on holiday, I think others must’ve been working in bars and hotels. That leads me on to a story about ordering drinks in Spanish only to find out that the barman was Bulgarian…but that’s got nothing to do with football.

I’ll be back on Friday with a preview of the game against the Belgians. Enjoy the weather while you can, in a couple of weeks many of us will be parked in front of the telly all day.

England To Play Against Another Team

At last. A game of football.

Over the past few months – well, most of this year and probably a bit beyond as well – the stories have all been about Capello leaving, ‘Arry being the people’s choice, whether John Terry will continue to be John Terry and all the other unbelievably tiresome speculation about nearly every single aspect of the England team.

Apart from what’s actually happening on the field. In a bizarre turn of events, it seems that England are going to be playing several games of football over the next month or so, an exciting development for fans and pundits alike. The trouble is that the first game is against a team that we’ve had some problems with over the years: we’ve not beaten Norway at Wembley since 1980 but even more worrying is the last time we beat them in Norway was in a friendly before the 1966 World Cup.

The Norwegians haven’t qualified for any of the major tournaments for over a decade, but they were unlucky not to reach the playoffs for Euro 2012, having an inferior goal difference to Portugal – who they beat in Oslo during the qualifiers thanks to a goal from Portsmouth’s Erik Huseklepp. Their current FIFA ranking is higher than both of the hosts in the upcoming tournament as well as the Czech Republic so they aren’t a bad choice for a friendly game – with five English based players in the squad they’ll be familiar with our team and if there’s such a thing as a Scandinavian ‘style’ then I suppose this game is good practice in playing against it.

One thing that could be an advantage for the Norwegians is that the majority of their players are based at home and play in the top tier of the domestic competition, which kicked off in March: the reigning champions are Molde FK, who are managed by former Manchester United striker Ole-Gunnar Solksjaer. He was strongly linked with the Aston Villa job last week but saw sense and turned it down 😉

The danger men for the Norwegians are familiar names to England fans: Jon-Arne Riise, Morten Gamst Pederson and the aforementioned Erik Huseklepp but keep an eye out for Moa Abdellaoue (Hannover 96), the latest of a number of Norwegian players who have chosen to move to the Bundesliga. He’s got a decent strike rate in Germany (26 goals in 68 appearances) for a team that’s not exactly a powerhouse over there and could cause the back four some problems.

Apart from Robert Green and Andy Carroll, it’s not clear who will be in Roy Hodgson’s first England team, but with call ups for Martin Kelly (who won’t be travelling on to Eastern Europe) and Jack Butland (who will – John Ruddy’s broken finger will keep him out of the tournament) we might be seeing an experimental side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in a friendly but hardly ideal a few weeks before a major tournament – so this is a classic wait and see game: a victory would be a bonus, but not losing would be just as good.

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Hodgson Backed To Succeed By Baggies Assistant

Regular contributor Thomas Rooney shares a few thoughts about Roy Hodgson…

Much has been discussed about new England manager Roy Hodgson. Some disagree with the decision to appoint him, others believe he is the perfect man for the job.

One thing that cannot be underestimated as far as the Euro 2012 Odds are concerned is how well West Brom have handled the situation though. They have worked well with the FA and ensured a smooth transition for their manager to move on now that the domestic season is over.

Even Hodgson’Â’s West Brom assistant – Keith Downing – has praised the Baggies boss for his career move, saying that he can be a better candidate for England than the previous favourite for the job, Harry Redknapp.

The Baggies assistant said: “

‘There was a mass public demand for Harry and rightly so. Roy’s work has been really intense. He’s been very focused. His job has been equally impressive.”

“’He’s kept this club up and established it as a Premier League side. And he did that at Fulham. His CV is excellent and he should be considered”

‘“I just hope people will give him the opportunity, though I know it’s the toughest job in the world. Let’s see how he does. The low expectancy might help him.”

‘Roy is his own man and he’ll make the players realise what he wants to do, and they will adhere to it.

“He’s got a wealth of stories: Inter Milan, Switzerland, Malmo. We do sometimes had a chuckle. He’s dealt with some big players and his CV is fantastic.”

‘“There’s a warmth about him, and it’s not just football, football. He has an interest in your family life and how things are going. He’s a fascinating man and a lot of the players enjoy his company. He’s interested in people.”’

England will certainly hope that they have made the right choice, but it is clear that Hodgson gets huge respect from the people he works with. If this continues with England, he has a good chance of a decent Euro 2012 tournament and people might start looking at the England Euro 2012 Odds and wondering if the current price is a bit too big.

The likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard have leant their support to Hodgson too and this is important for the England boss. He needs the support of the senior players, much like Roberto Di Matteo has done at Chelsea – and we saw how well that worked on Saturday evening!

England Squad For Euro 2012 Announced

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Robert Green (West Ham United), John Ruddy (Norwich City)

Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Leighton Baines (Everton)

Midfielders: Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Scott Parker (Spurs), Ashley Young (Manchester United), James Milner (Manchester City)

Forwards: Jermain Defoe (Spurs), Wayne Rooney & Danny Welbeck (Manchester United), Andy Carroll (Liverpool)

There is also a standby list, but I’m not going to bother listing them.

A few random thoughts:

a.) All but two of the players come from teams that finished in the top eight in the Premier League in 2011/12 – although there are no players from Newcastle United. At least John Ruddy plays for a team in the Premier League: Robert Green is still mistake prone.

b.) None of the squad plays outside England. No surprise there.

c.) The only omission that might cause a few raised eyebrows is that of Rio Ferdinand, but there were signs this weekend that he wouldn’t have made the team. I think it may be time for him to hang it up.

On the whole, the squad is not a huge surprise. Only Ruddy and Oxlade-Chamberlain are uncapped and I would imagine that the decision to include the Arsenal midfielder is similar to the one Sven-Goran Eriksson made to take Theo Walcott to the World Cup in 2006. There also seems to be a discrete changing of the guard: I’d be surprised if the trio of Chelsea pensioners (Cole, Terry and Lampard) will be preparing to travel to Brazil in a couple of years time: Phil Jones for John Terry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Frank Lampard looks like the way forward to me. I’d also not be surprised if this is the last time we see Steven Gerrard playing in a tournament for England.

One potential drawback is the lack of alternatives to Wayne Rooney up front. My guess is that Hodgson will be trying out variations of 4-5-1 in the upcoming friendlies with Messers Defoe, Wellbeck and Carroll being given opportunities to audition for the role, but I’d expect Defoe to be in the starting eleven for the games against France and the Ukraine with attacking support being given by the midfield. However, this looks as if it could cause the usual argument about Lampard and Gerrard being the ‘same player’, but if only one of them occupies central midfield then there’s some flexibility on the flanks.

So there you have it. The squad has been announced, the usual nonsense has started on twitter, I don’t like the new kit at all and although I don’t think England will win Euro 2012 I’ve got a feeling that this summer won’t be as much of an anti climax as the last World Cup was. All we have to do now is find the cheapest off licence, the biggest wallchart and we’re off.

I’ll be back next week with a look at the friendly with Norway.

Hodgson Faces Key Decisions On Captain, Strikers.

Roy Hodgson will be naming the England squad for Euro 2012 on Wednesday – and so Thomas Rooney takes a look at some of the candidates for the crucial positions: team captain and goal scoring options another than the Spud Faced Nipper.

With the European Championships just round the corner, there lots of talk as ever about who should be given the captain’s armband for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Scott Parker is amongst favourites amongst punters looking to trade using this back to lay calculator to lead the side out for the Championships. Parker has been one of the best English players in the Premier League this season and his knack of avoiding controversy means he may be the ideal candidate.

The Tottenham midfielder has only made eleven caps for his country but with his form this campaign will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Parker has made 28 appearances for Spurs this season, despite not getting himself on the score-sheet he has been instrumental for his team when he has played and really seems to make them tick.

The ex-West Ham United man is vital to making sure the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon can get forward as much as possible, filling in the gaps they leave when attacking.

This would be the role he would play for the England side who will want to use the pace of the likes of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Lennon and Adam Johnson a lot throughout the tournament.

Parker will be the player to hold the midfield together and make England play in the same way he does for his club.

Other candidates as far as those over at best betting sites are concerned include Joe Hart. The Manchester City man would also be a decent choice as he looks certain to be England’Â’s number one for the foreseeable future: he’s also a very vocal player and being a goalkeeper, can see the whole game.

England require a leader on the pitch, someone to set an example to the rest of the players and drive the team on. Parker is the perfect man for this role in the team, with Hart as vice captain.

Moving onto attacking options, it’ll be interesting to see if Aston Villa striker Darren Bent is fit for the European Championships this summer after an injury that has kept him out of action since February. If Bent is fit, should Roy Hodgson include him in his squad?

In Bent, England have one of the best finishers the Premier League has seen in recent years. His goals seem to go under the radar sometimes and apart from a slight dip at Tottenham, he has scored regularly wherever he has played.

However at Spurs, he did manage 18 goals in sixty appearances, which is not too bad for the worst goal scoring form of his career. So it should be interesting to see what price Bent is for the Golden Boot in the 2012 euro betting odds.

The Englishman had scored nine times in the Premier League this campaign until he was injured in a game against Wigan, it’s quite safe to say Aston Villa would not find themselves as low down the table as they are if they had a fit Darren Bent at the disposal for the whole season.

The former Sunderland striker is an old fashioned goal poacher, he may only touch the ball a few times in the game but ends up scoring two goals and winning his team the game.

The England side does not have a great deal of players similar to Bent, someone whose sole purpose is to find the back of the net. The other option could be Jermaine Defoe, although he has spent the majority of the season coming off the bench so may be suited to that role during the summer.

If the 28-year-old is fully fit he could be the ideal partner for Wayne Rooney in the later stages of the tournament, he also capable of playing up front on his own during Rooney’s suspension in the first two matches.

Bent and Rooney should go to Euros as the Three Lions two main strikers, with Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch and Daniel Sturridge all waiting in the wings. This front line includes height, pace, strength, skill and finishing – a winning formula.

Update: Hodgson has made one interesting decision today – Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville joins the coaching staff with immediate effect.