England’s plans for the 2012 European Championships were thrown into disarray when Fabio Capello quit his role as Head Coach amidst the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the captain’s armband. Capello felt Terry was innocent until proven guilty – his court case for alleged racist abuse is on July 9 – and he simply couldn’t continue once his authority had been challenged.
The nation then expected Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp to take the reins, but instead Roy Hodgson was the man chosen to take over a side without a captain and without direction, culminating in an all-together un-English feel – of a side without too much expectation.
Indeed, England will be something of an unknown quantity going into the tournament. Wayne Rooney’s two-game ban adds even further mystery to a team in which nobody can be too sure how it will line up and who will line up in it.
Before Capello’s departure, England had settled on a 4-2-3-1 system, with Rooney occupying a role off the front man – who was often Darren Bent. Two of Ashley Young, Theo Walcott and Stuart Downing invariably occupied the wings, but with Bent not included in the squad due to missing the last half of the season through injury and Rooney’s suspension, changes will have to made. What’s more, Danny Welbeck’s impressive season has put him into contention for a spot in the starting line-up, while newly installed captain Steven Gerrard has largely been unavailable for England over their qualifying campaign, so his presence may well mean a reshuffle.
Of course, Hodgson will have his preferred formations too and he has used the 4-4-2 formation throughout his managerial career and early signs are that he will go with some sort of variation on this. On paper, 4-4-2 seems a restriction on England’s wingers, as well as Gerrard if he is used in a middle two, even with a defensive midfielder such as Scott Parker. However, the system favours Rooney who, when he returns from his suspension, enjoys linking up with a frontman as well as dropping deep to influence play.
Whatever Hodgson’s plans, he is missing a proven No. 9. Welbeck has shown promise, but this tournament is early in his career and it is a big ask to suggest he can lead the line. Andy Carroll’s late season form is encouraging, but his majority season form cannot be ignored and it is a stretch to think he is up to the job on a consistent basis. Rooney has shown he can play the role, but it would be to his unselfish nature and sacrifice his best assets.
Seldom has there been so many unanswered questions heading into a major tournament, but England have been prepared and hotly-tipped numerous times before, so perhaps such realms of the unknown and lack of expectation will prove to be the side’s Golden ticket. It’s easy to forget that this side qualified so convincingly too – finishing unbeaten and six points clear of their nearest rivals – so ruling England out may prove dangerous.
One to watch – Steven Gerrard: Liverpool’s captain-fantastic has never quite transferred his club form to the international stage. However, with this possibly being his last crack at a major honour with his country and being the newly-appointed skipper, he will be hungrier than ever and that could result in some titanic performances.
Possible starting XI:
Johnson – Cahill – Terry – Cole
Walcott – Parker – Gerrard – Milner
Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.