Assessing Montenegro’s Chances Against England

by on March 25, 2013
in Previews, World Cup 2014

I’ve got to say that 8-0 was what I was hoping for on Friday, but the best part about that win was the dramatic improvement in the goal difference. Tomorrow’s game is a much sterner test – in his first article for the site, guest contributor Owen Barnes tells us what to expect.

The Montenegrins now stand two points clear of England – however the dismissal of crucial midfielder Nikola Peković may prove costly to their chances of winning tomorrow’s game.

Montenegro started the game against Moldova leading group H, previously beating San Marino 3-0 in a match they dominated. With England trampling over the San Marino side 8-0 we can imagine many English supporters rubbing their hands at tomorrow’s fixture. However, with Stefan Jovetić and Vučinić leading the front line for the national side England cannot afford to be complacent.

The controversial issue with Rio Ferdinand’s absence in previous games may give Montenegro a chance to pounce. Ferdinand has been brilliant for Manchester United in the past month and they may feel his absence against the two technically-gifted strikers. However Hodgson seems confident that the pairing Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill can deny the Serie A strikers of causing any upsets, despite Moldova only having two shots with none on target.

England will start the game as favourites, with their star man Wayne Rooney scoring six goals in his past four games for the lions. He has shown consistency, which could be the lack of pressure from his club allowing him to focus on his international career, but he will need to be in top form to solve any sticky situations he faces. The potential attacking force of Rooney, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young can cause serious problems for the opposition’s back line. Link up play from team mates Young and Rooney as well as the pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain will produce goals, assists and flair as seen in the San Marino game.

As the Moldovans came close to scoring within two minutes of the kick off last Friday, the English front three are certainly with the ability of causing havoc for Montenegro. Moldova dealt with the efforts of Jovetić and Vučinić very nicely, but the Montenegrin strikers will also continuously test England’s defence. Having netted 23 goals between them in Italy this season, their total of five shots on target tested the Moldovan keeper Serghei Pascenco, who did well to keep the game at deadlock until the 78th minute, where Vučinić proved his finishing with a scrappy volley inside the penalty box. One possible area for English concern is when Jovetić is standing over the ball in set pieces: when San Marino were in the English half for a corner there was some doubt how England would cope. Thankfully Kyle Walker was able to rescue the lions by dribbling a good 60 yards down the right hand side to put San Marino back under pressure.

With England having an advantage in goal difference, a clean sheet at the Podgorica Stadium would be a real achievement. Hodgson may look at James Milner for stability, which could mean allowing Tom Cleverley to rest. The absence of Jack Wilshere could be costly for the English midfield unless all midfielders put in a good shift. A big test awaits for England and they must maintain possession and keep the ball away from Montenegro’s attacking force.

Predicted score: 2-1 England (Rooney, Lampard) (Jovetic)

Betting odds (SkyBets): England 4/5, Montenegro 7/2.

England Possible Line-up (4-4-2) Joe Hart, Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Michael Carrick, Leighton Baines; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Frank Lampard, Ashley Young; Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe.

Tonight’s Priority: Don’t Lose.

by on October 16, 2012
in Previews, World Cup 2014

Tonight’s game is the last World Cup qualifier this year: the next one is in San Marino in March and although England have a three point lead and a superior goal difference, it’s important to remember that we’ve played one more game than our nearest rivals – and that Montenegro’s game in hand is against San Marino next month, the same night we have a friendly against Sweden.

In that context, avoiding defeat in Warsaw tonight is vital. The good news is that in our eight games in Poland since July 1966, we’ve only lost once – the traumatic defeat in June 1973. Even though I was only eight, I knew it was an important game: some of my school friends came round just before kick off to ask me if I wanted to go outside to play on my bike: I remember leaning out of the front room window at my parents’ house and telling them I wasn’t coming out because I was going to watch the football.

In retrospect, I should’ve gone out.

The bad news is that we’ve only won three of our trips to Poland, but although our hosts are probably a second tier side in terms of European national football, they aren’t exactly mugs either: they’ve only lost three of their last 20 games at home but that includes a surprising defeat to the Czechs in the European Championships last summer that ended Polish hopes of qualification from the group stage.

The current Polish squad are a cosmopolitan lot: they play in ten different countries although the majority of them are based at home or in the Bundesliga: current leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski plays for Borussia Dortmund, as does influential midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, but the latter will be missing tonight due to injury. Although there”s a lot experience within the Polish side, goals have been in short supply: they’ve only scored more than two goals in one of their matches in the last year and that was against Andorra. The only player based in England is Tomasz Kuszczak (currently of Brighton) although he’ll probably start the game on the bench.

The lack of Polish goals is actually a good thing for England: we’ve only been shut out once in the last 20 games (Italy in the quarter finals of the European Championship) and we’ve scored in four of the last the five games in Poland so one might be enough. I’m expecting Roy Hodgson to pick his strongest (and most experienced) team to start this evening, with Steven Gerrard replacing Wayne Rooney as captain and Ashley ‘Pottymouth’ Cole to return at left back. Theo Walcott won’t play any part this evening after he was clattered by Aldo Simoncini on Friday evening.

To return to the main theme, not losing tonight is crucial but coming away with a point wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world either, especially if Montenegro are unable to win in Ukraine tonight – and that game starts an hour before ours, so we should have at least some idea how that’s going when the teams take the field tonight.

 

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Wanted: Goals. Lots Of Them.

by on October 12, 2012
in Previews, World Cup 2014

It’s back to the World Cup after a month or so off, so a quick recap on the overall position: we’re level on points with Montenegro and Poland but have an inferior goal difference to the Montenegrins. After San Marino we have to play Poland in Warsaw next Tuesday: for those of us that have reached a certain age, playing Poland in the World Cup is a bitter sweet experience that ranges from the realisation that Bobby Moore’s international career was over to the joy of Gary Lineker’s hat trick in Mexico more or less saving Sir Bobby Robson’s job.

Montenegro don’t play tonight, but they have a tough looking trip to Ukraine on Tuesday, so this evening’s game is a good time to play the worst team in the world – that’s official: along with Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands, San Marino are mired at the bottom of the FIFA rankings. It might also be a good time for England to find their shooting boots, as we’ve not scored more than three goals at Wembley since September 2010.

To be honest, Roy Hodgson could’ve picked a squad from the Football League that could probably beat San Marino. All but one member of their current squad play in the Sammarinese league: the exception is midfielder Mirko Palazzi, who plays for Rimini in the Italian equivalent of League 2. Most capped player is defender Damiano Vannucci and the main goalscoring threat is Andy Selva, who has bagged eight goals in 55 games since 1998 and has the honour of scoring the only goal in the only game San Marino have ever won: a 1-0 victory over Liechtenstein in 2004.

There’s not much to report from the England squad before the game other than Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand will be missing and there was a press fuelled debate about who should be captain before Wayne Rooney was given the job, but other than that this game is a good opportunity to make a statement. Both the Polish and the Dutch have reached double figures against San Marino recently and in the context of having to score as many goals as possible to ensure a first place finish, that’s tonight’s priority.

Result: England 5, San Marino 0. Considering San Marino had lost five of their last six games by more than five goals, I don’t see how this can be seen as anything other than a reasonable result. It took over 35 minutes to break the deadlock and although England ran out easy winners in the end, since 2007 only Moldova, Northern Ireland and Cyprus have beaten San Marino by scoring fewer goals. The other worrying aspect of the game – apart from Clive Tyldesley not knowing that Jakub Blaszczykowski is injured and won’t be playing for Poland next week – was that England lost Theo Walcott after ten minutes following a collision with Aldo Simoncini.

Gerrard Backing Shelvey Decision

by on October 12, 2012
in Previews

Thomas Rooney takes a look at Jonjo Shelvey’s promotion into the senior team.

England captain Steven Gerrard believes that his Liverpool teammate Jonjo Shelvey has a bright international career ahead of him.

Shelvey was called-up from the under-21 squad to the senior team on Monday, a decision that surprised a few as he has not yet really cemented his place in the starting eleven for the Reds. However, Gerrard seemed to be very pleased that he was given the call from Roy Hodgson.

“I am delighted for Jonjo. He has been improving all the time since he arrived at Liverpool and has grown into a good footballer with good vision who can create and score goals.

“He also listens which means he will only get better with more games and experience.”

The call-up for the young Liverpool man has received a fair bit of criticism, with many saying that he is still unproven and does not deserve a chance at international level. This case does have a point as well, as the former Charlton man has not exactly set the world alight on Merseyside, despite a couple of good performances in the Europa League this season.

However, Shelvey does have a great deal of potential and could really start to shine after this call-up to the national side. If you popped to a forum on www.PlayBaccarat.com and asked who he was, people might come up short, but why not give him a go?

At 20-years-old, this is the best time to give players such as Shelvey a chance to work with England. Many people forget that getting a call-up does not mean that you are going to play. The squad has over 20 players in it, and you can only use 14 throughout 90 minutes.
But, when a couple of injuries come along like they have done, then it is the perfect opportunity to give youngsters the experience of working with the national side – so when you really do need to call upon them in the future, they know what to expect and will not be overwhelmed by the occasion.

It was never going to be a decision that pleased everybody, but Hodgson has a long term plan with England and is starting to build for the future. Giving players such as Shelvey the chance to be involved around the set-up of the team can only benefit them.

Another England Win On The Cards?

After Friday’s stroll over Moldova, it’s Ukraine again tonight for the second time in less than three months. Since May 2000 they’ve played here three times and lost all of those games, scoring only one goal (Andriy Shevchenko’s equaliser in the 2-1 World Cup qualifier win in April 2009) so Roy and the team will be looking to pick up another three points in their quest to reach Brazil in less than two years time.  With Montenegro and Poland having drawn 2-2 on Friday (the Poles took the lead in Podgorica but fell behind at half time: they equalised just before the hour), after one game England are already two points clear at the top of Group H.

Another England win would be very useful indeed – I can’t see Poland losing to Moldova and Montenegro shouldn’t have any problems in San Marino this evening – as an early lead in the group before going into a home game with one of the weakest sides in Europe next month would be an ideal position before arguably the toughest game in the group.

Ukraine’s away over the last year hasn’t been particularly impressive: they’ve beaten Estonia and Israel but lost their other four road trips and seem to be having goalscoring issues, especially now that Shevchenko has retired and chosen to take up a career in the minefield that is Ukrainian politics. One goal in their last five games isn’t particularly inspiring and the two recognised strikers in the current squad have scored a grand total of three times in 27 combined appearances – although Marko Devic would have had another if it hadn’t been for the incompetence of the fourth official back in June. Unusually these days, almost all of the Ukraine team play at home: only reserve goalkeeper Andriy Dikan and captain Anatoliy Timoshchuk play abroad, although only Timoshchuk plays in what we used to call ‘Western Europe’.

We’re missing a few players for tonight’s match: Ashley Cole and John Terry are injured while Theo Walcott has been ‘violently ill’ after picking up a bug…I doubt if it’s the Stella Flu though. Raheem Stirling of Liverpool, Spurs’ Jake Livermore and Adam Lallana of Southampton have been called up but I’d be amazed if any of them got off the bench tonight. I must admit I like the way that Hodgson is not afraid to draft in younger players: even if it’s just for the experience, it shows them that they could be a part of the England setup if they continue to make progress with their clubs. The problem for Southampton is that international recognition for Lallana probably means he’ll be leaving them at some point, but as long as he doesn’t end up at Liverpool he could have a promising international career.

It’s an 8:00pm kick off this evening, although if you’re a masochist Clive Tyldesley and all his chums will be on air on ITV1 at 7:30pm – so that looks like a good time to go to the chip shop to me. Battered sausage for me please.

Hodgson Names Puzzling Squad for Italy Friendly

It’s still very disconcerting to have to play friendlies before the domestic season has begun, especially when the game is against a team that knocked us out of Euro 2012 and when some of the squad have just returned from Olympic Games duty with Team GB. Nonetheless, the campaign to qualify for the next World Cup in Brazil is underway: guest blogger Richard Smith of www.englandbettingodds.com takes a look at what might best be described as a developmental squad.

With two 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine coming up next month, England manager, Roy Hodgson, has named a rather puzzling squad to face Italy in a friendly in Switzerland this week that would appear to be more about players proving their England futures rather than a group of new and young players becoming the nucleus of the team that will form the team’s future and World Cup aspirations.

Hodgson has recalled both Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick and both look like starting in central midfield againstItaly, despite both being in their 30s. Lampard in fact has been named as captain, which would appear to confirm the long standing fear of most England fans that the manager finds it almost impossible to select a side that does not include both Lampard and the officially appointed captain Steven Gerrard.

It seemed that Hodgson, now having got Euro 2012 out of the way, would set his stall out with a squad that had a youthful bias, interspersed with experienced players such as Gerrard who remain at an age to make it all the way through to the World Cup of 2014. However, the inclusion of Lampard and Carrick suggests that the “old guard” still feature prominently in current thinking although he has left out, somewhat mysteriously, John Terry.

Also included in Hodgson’s squad are Jermaine Defoe and Andy Carroll, neither of whom look likely to be playing first team football this season as it stands. Carroll is clearly out of favour at Anfield after the club accepted an approach from West Ham to loan the striker only for the player to turn down the move and Defoe is being linked with a move away from White Hart Lane. It is interesting to note that Daniel Sturridge is included after missing Euro 2012, yet Danny Welbeck, one of his Euro 2012 preferred front men as been ignored.

There is no Rio Ferdinand and Scott Parker is out due to injury. Stewart Downing and Joleon Lescott are also missing .

On the positive side,  Hodgson has included Tom Cleverley, has recalled Adam Johnson of Manchester City, Kyle Walker of Spurs and has kept the faith with young Arsenal pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott. He also found a place for Ashley Young who disappointed at the Euros.

In fairness to Hodgson, the last game he would have wanted would have been a “friendly” againstItaly, who of course knocked Englandout of Euro 2012 via the penalty shoot-out just a matter of weeks ago.

However, World Cup qualification comes around very quickly and for Hodgson and England, a good start to the campaign is essential. Moldova and Ukraine should be a six point start, however, England fans witnessed what Ukraine almost did to England at Euro 2012. We all know that they were cheated out of an equaliser in Kiev and as such, will come to Wembley on September 11th looking for some sort of retribution. Moldova of course are somewhat of an unknown entity although Holland struggled to beat them in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Moldova last year winning only 1-0.

It will be very interesting to see how England perform against Italy but it will be even more interesting to see what squad Hodgson opts for come the World Cup qualifiers? The real test for Hodgson begins now…

 

A Game We Can Win

Unexpectedly given pre-tournament expectations, England have reached the quarter finals of the European Championships for the first time since 2004.

Or to put it another way, we’ve reached the quarter finals for only the third time since the competition started just over half a century ago.

If that seems a rare feat, consider this. We’ve not played a competitive game against the Italians since the epic goalless draw in the Olympic Stadium in Rome which ensured qualification for the 1998 World Cup. Even more surprising is that fact that we’ve never played the Italians at a neutral site in a major tournament. Considering we first played them in 1933 and between us we’ve qualified for almost every World Cup and European Championships, it almost looks like we’ve gone out of our way to avoid each other. Ironically, we next them in a friendly in August.

Before I continue, it’s worth chucking in some facts about the quarter finals in the recent Euro tournaments, basically so you can start planning what to say when you turn up bleary eyed for work tomorrow morning. In the European Championships Since 1996:

* On average, at least one quarter final per tournament has gone to extra time, although none did in 2000.

* In the games that went to extra time, all but one were eventually decided on penalties

* Most of the quarter finals have been won by countries that won their groups: victories for Spain and Germany over the last two days took those numbers to eleven wins in 19 games for group winners in quarter finals

If we apply those statistics to today’s game there’s the possibility that England might actually win a penalty shoot out in the latter stages of the European Championship since Stuart Pearce dramatically made amends for his miss in the 1990 World Cup Semi Final when he scored in the shoot out against Spain in 1996.

However, before getting carried away there are some numbers that you should be aware of. We’ve only beaten Italy twice in our last ten meetings – the last win was at Le Tournoi in 1997 – and we’ve failed to score in half of those games. Not only that, the fact that we’re currently ranked higher in the FIFA rankings could count against us. Since 1996, at least one quarter final has seen a lower ranked side beat a higher ranked team – that hasn’t happened yet in Euro 2012.

Overall, these statistics point to something that we’ve all been expecting. This is going to be a tight, low scoring game – there may only be one goal in it – that could easily go to extra time and penalties. And whoever wins will probably be beaten by Germany in the semi finals.

So who have we got to look out for? Remarkably, Cesare Prandelli has already used 20 players in three games although the midfield of De Rossi, Marchisio, Pirlo and Thiago Motta played in all three group games: it should be remembered that Pirlo and De Rossi are also more than capable of getting on the scoresheet. Antonio Cassano of Milan normally starts up front but hasn’t finished a game yet and it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if he wasn’t on the pitch after 70 minutes today: it’ll be interesting to see who plays up front with him. Mario Balotelli started against both Spain and Croatia but was substituted in both games; although he came off the bench to score in the last minute against Ireland I’m wondering if he might be used to replace Cassano and the more experienced- and potentially more lethal – Antonio Di Natale will be alongside Cassano for Italy. The other question is which formation the Italians could use – they lined up in 3-5-2 against Spain and Croatia but changed to a 4-1-3-2 against Ireland and could use that again against us, largely because we don’t really play Mediterranean style football.

Apart from the enforced changes upfront due to Wayne Rooney’s suspension, Roy Hodgson has been fairly consistent in his team selection. Nine players started all three group games and both Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have made cameo appearances in all of the games so far: arguably the biggest surprise has been Danny Welbeck. However if you’re going to base your attacking options around making Wayne Rooney comfortable then attempting to copy Manchester United’s style puts selecting Welbeck and Ashley Young ahead of arguably better players into context. Much has been made of the lack of Young’s defensive qualities at this level and if he starts today he needs to have the game of his life in that respect.

If we beat Italy, the old nemesis lies in wait in the semi finals. Germany took a while to get going against the Greeks on Friday night but once they hit their stride they look fantastic. I ‘watched’ Spain v France last night but my wife and I saw ‘The Woman In Black’ before it and that was more tense and dramatic than the game: my opinion is that ‘tiki taka’ is about as thrilling as ‘catenaccio’ used to be in so far as it’ll bore you into submission before striking when you probably expect it. Croatia and France learned that lesson the hard way.

Let’s not get too carried away if we win tonight. A bit carried away will be perfectly acceptable though.

Insert Headline About Wayne Rooney

by on June 19, 2012
in Euro 2012, Previews

We don’t have to compete against other blogs in newsagents, supermarkets and convenience stores, so I’ve not been up all night thinking of a terrible pun about the return of The Messiah.

There are only ten teams left in the tournament: tonight we’ll find out the last of the quarter finalists but as long as England don’t lose we’ll be through to face Spain or Italy at the weekend.

First of all, the game last Friday was the first time for a while that I’ve seen England play in a game that reminded me of domestic football for a long time. On the one hand, that’s a good thing: after a very ropey opening to the second half and having realised what could be at stake, the team dug deep and managed to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 victory. So far so good: after having had a few ciders at the house of a friend, I walked home feeling very pleased that I’d seen such a spirited fight back.

However, the reality of the situation hit home as I walked past the local stadium. For those of you that don’t know, I am a season ticket holder at an nPower Championship club who haven’t been doing particularly well over the last couple of seasons: and that’s where the reality hit me. What we saw last Friday was a Football League game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: the league system in England is almost unique these days and I’m reasonably certain that the Championship is still one of the best supported competitions in Europe. Andy Carroll’s goal was a classic English centre forward’s header that Dixie Dean, Ted Drake or Tommy Lawton would’ve been proud of.

That being said, the Championship is a second tier competition. At times on Friday, England were extremely poor – the old cliche about ‘poor first touch’ was much in evidence once again – against a team that is amongst the top 20 in the world without having ever really done anything at international level for almost two decades. Of the six teams that have qualified for the quarter finals, only the Czechs are ranked lower by FIFA than the Swedes but only Spain and Germany are ranked higher than us. We’re good…but we’re not that good.

On to tonight’s game. Today’s slightly worrying fact is that England have never beaten the hosts of a European Championship tournament: the last three games saw defeats to Italy (1968) and Sweden (1992) as well as a 2-2 draw with Portugal in 2004 before being beaten on penalties after extra time. The situation is made slightly easier by not having to beat Ukraine to qualify for the knockout rounds: the only other time we’ve played against the Ukrainians away from England was the 1-0 defeat in the World Cup qualifiers when Robert Green was sent off.

A draw would be good enough, but we have our less than secret weapon available for tonight’s game. Wayne Rooney returns, although it’s never a good idea to change a winning team, as both my wife and my mother have pointed out over the last couple of days. I wouldn’t want to do Roy Hodgson’s job so I’m going to keep away from having an opinion, but let’s just say that I can see the arguments for and against changing the starting eleven to incorporate Rooney. If selecting him means a major change of tactics – and I don’t think it does – then there’s a case to be made for him to start on the bench.

Overall, so far the tournament has been a good one with the Dutch being a major disappointment whilst the Germans look the pick of the bunch – and before you start wondering, I have put my money where my mouth is. I’m not going to wax lyrical about the Spanish: they were kept in check by the Italians and Croatians but had a field day against an Irish side who were described as a ‘pub team’ by a friend of mine who has Irish ancestry and as a typical British team by commentators in both Belgium and Hungary. The biggest surprise is that Russia were knocked out – although to be fair they didn’t have to go far to get home – and how ridiculously fussy UEFA have been about non-issues like German fans throwing screwed up bits of paper and Nicholas Bendtner’s sponsored underpants.

The most predictable aspect of the tournament: Clive Tyldesley and Mark Lawrenson – although I must admit that ITV’s coverage has been far more entertaining with the tableaux of Polish street life going on behind them. So far we’ve had a balloon seller smoking a fag, a man with a ferret on a lead and some drunken Polish teenagers being cleared out of the square by the riot squad. As far as I know, there aren’t any charity muggers operating there…yet.

Euro 2012: A Trip To The Dentist?

by on June 11, 2012
in Euro 2012, Previews

This morning as I was brushing my teeth I came up with an metaphor. This tournament is going to be like a trip to the dentist. Even if everything goes reasonably well, I’ll probably still need a scale and polish.

However, on this morning’s evidence there seems to be a hole that needs filling at the back, which could turn into something painful if it encounters anything harder or sharper than it was expecting over the next couple of days.

England’s European Championship campaigns have – on the whole – been worse than those in the World Cup. The main reason for this is that the group stages are much tougher due to the absence of the type of teams we’re normally drawn against (and subsequently draw with) in the World Cup. Euro 2012 features seven of the top ten national teams in the world – all the teams in Group B are in that classification – so these days the European Championships are reminiscent of the second group stages in the 1974 and 1978 World Cups. It’s vital to remember that: just by qualifying for this tournament we’re amongst the elite national sides of world football.

The downside is exactly how unsuccessful we’ve been in this tournament over the years. The best we’ve done is beaten semi finalists (1968 and 1996) but in three of the last five competitions we’ve failed to get out of the group stage: after beating Spain in Naples on 18th June 1980, it was almost exactly sixteen years until we won another game in the finals within 90 minutes. To make you even more depressed, it’s nearly eight years since we last played a game in the finals – the 2-2 draw against Portugal that we ultimately lost on penalties.

Here are some other stats to cheer you up:

We’ve not beaten France since Le Tournoi (June 1997)

We’ve not beaten Sweden outside England since May 1937. Eleven days after this happened.

We lost the only other time we played Ukraine outside England and Robert Green was sent off.

However…here are the silver linings:

England actually went up a place in the revised FIFA rankings that were released on Wednesday: this is the highest ranked England team to take part in the European Championships since the FIFA rankings were introduced in 1994.

Including 1996, our recent record in the Euros is as good as Italy’s and better than Russia

Roy Hodgson’s record with both the Swiss and Finnish national teams has been referred to – but not necessarily understood – by the media. He has a proven track record of doing far better than expected with modest players: although the current England side is better than the sides I just mentioned, it’ll be interesting to see what he can do with better players at international level.

Personally, I think it’ll be enough to qualify from the group: then the adventure really begins but first of all we have to avoid defeat against the French in a couple of hours time. Let’s see what happens: I’ll be back tomorrow with my analysis of what happened this afternoon.

Five Euro 2012 Predictions For England

Guest blogger Richard Smith of Englandbettingodds.com polishes his crystal ball and takes a look at some of the England markets available for punters before the start of the tournament.

With the threat of a smear campaign being launched against England’s new boss, Roy Hodgson, after he ignored the squad selection claims of Rio Ferdinand, England head to the European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine already under pressure.

The beauty of Hodgson however is that he is very broad shouldered and has an uncanny ability to fend off negatives and concentrate solely on the positives. He was not every England fans idea of the next national team manager but he made it very clear that he he wanted the job more than anything else. This is clearly a trait that confirms that Roy Hodgson is a man who is prepared to stand up and be counted!

The performances of his England side at Euro 2012 will undoubtedly be the yardstick from which he is judged by the FA, the media or the fans. A good tournament and he will be a hero a bad one he’s a failure and will be facing an up hill battle come the start of the World Cup qualifiers in September.

All that said, what can Hodgson and the England team achieve at Euro 2012? What actually would be regarded as abject failure, modest failure or better still, success?

Here are five bold predictions for the fate of England at Euro 2012:

  1. England will open their campaign with a scoreless draw against France, a result that should help enormously in qualifying from Group D and into the knock out stages. The two friendlies for which Hodgson has been in charge against Norway and Belgium has seen the side put up solid defensive performances  and that can continue.
  2. England will defeat both Ukraine and Sweden in Group D but will only finish in second place behind France. “Les Bleus” will also win their other two games in the group but will finish above England with a slightly better goal difference. England and France will therefore qualify to meet either Italy or Spain in the Quarter Finals.
  3. England will be eliminated at the Quarter Final stages of the tournament by Spain. Whilst the draw for the group was kind to England, the fact they will play a team from Group C in the Quarter Final was not so kind and with Spain likely to top that group, it is likely that the last eight will be where England’s European Championship hopes come to an end.
  4. England will score a total of just three goals in four matches played. They will beat both Ukraine and Sweden by 1-0 and lose by 2-1 in the Quarter final. England can be backed to defeat Sweden 1-0 at 11/2 via Paddy Power and at 6/1 to defeat Ukraine by the same scoreline. England to score 4 goals or less in the tournament can be backed with Coral with odds of 11/8.
  5. England’s three goalscorers will be Danny Welbeck, who will score against Sweden, Wayne Rooney, who will hit the winner against Ukraine on his return from suspension and Steven Gerrard who will score in the Quarter final.

Euro 2012 has got to be the first tournament in many years where England go in with little to no expectations from the fans or media. Bookmakers have reported nowhere near as much support for England as in years gone by and odds of 14/1 to win a tournament are much bigger than they would normally be. Fans with “blind faith” may even suggest that the lack of expectation could well work in the team’s favour but in reality it’s difficult to get excited about the current team.

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