England will head to Euro 2016 in France with the youngest squad of any team at the tournament, and the youngest Three Lions side for 58 years, while Marcus Rashford will be the youngest player at the Euros.
So how on earth will Roy Hodgson’s boys be able to pull off the impossible, winning Euro 2016? We tackle three reasons why this might be England’s tournament!
1. Killer confidence
The Three Lions are ranked fourth among bookmakers when it comes to Euro 2016 favourites. Behind only France, Germany and Spain, and in front of Belgium, Italy and Portugal. That position comes after England lost just two of it’s last 21 international fixtures since the 2014 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the group stage.
England shifted away from the generation of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, giving more opportunities to young players like Raheem Sterling, John Stones, and Harry Kane. And it paid off. Hodgson’s men won their ten qualifying matches for the Euros, finishing first in a group with the likes of Switzerland and Slovenia and posting an impressive goal difference of +28 with just three goals conceded.
The Three Lions only dropped points to Italy (1-1), the Republic of Ireland (0-0), Spain (2-0 loss), and the Netherlands (2-1 loss) in friendlies. Meanwhile, they beat Euros’ favourite France 2-0, while scoring an improbable 3-2 victory against World Cup winners Germany in Berlin. Therefore, England are rocking with confidence heading into the tournament and that has never hurt anyone.
2. Team spirit
Former Juventus, PSG, Real Madrid and soon-to-become Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti said this in his first Euro 2016 column for The Telegraph:
“International managers in tournament years have such little time with their players on the training pitch between the season ending and the competition starting that they will always have to make sacrifices. It is a simple truth that if you want a team to play out from the back, to build the play patiently, then that takes hours on the training pitch to develop and refine unless, like Spain, you have a group of players who have been doing it all their lives.”
It’s been pretty amazing to see how this new crop of English players has clicked over the last two years. For some odd reason, things just seem to work out when guys like Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and even James Milner are on the pitch. You can’t win big tournaments with one superstar, just ask Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo. Football is and will always be a team game, and that’s where this England crop makes a difference this time around.
On top, they realise it’s been exactly 50 years since the Three Lions were able to celebrate winning an international trophy. That was, off course, the 1966 World Cup on their home soil. Time to change that as well.
3. Offensive power and Joe Hart
During their last three international tournaments, the Three Lions scored nine goals in nine group stage matches. However, England scored 47 goals in just ten qualifying games and 11 friendlies. Contrary to previous squads, this one has a lot of offensive fire power, mainly due to an added dimension of creativity. A guy like Alli is able to find in-form strikers Kane and Vardy without even looking, while James Milner has emerged as a surprise playmaker and Sterling can dribble almost any opponent.
It’s been pretty astonishing how England’s young guns have adapted to international football in such a short period of time, while they are all coming off superior club seasons, mainly Vardy and Kane. Both strikers are able to find the back of net very easily, even on the biggest stage, something that has been lacking the last couple of years with the Three Lions.
“Roy Hodgson has Jamie Vardy, a player who has been stretching defences all season and doing it very well. I like Vardy and given the right circumstances I believe he could cause some big problems to opposition teams on the counter-attack. Harry Kane is able to play this way as well,” Ancelotti said in his column also. The Italian hasn’t been too impressed with England’s defence, but there’s always the strong Joe Hart to save them, a man who’s primed for a breakthrough on the biggest stage.
Combine a sense of urgency with a renewed belief in their own skills and a talented bunch of players, and you can feel the positive vibe around this England squad. Could they actually surpise everyone? Their chances haven’t been this high in a long time…
England’s schedule at Euro 2016:
June 11, 9pm (CET): England – Russia in Marseille
June 16, 3pm (CET): England – Wales in Lens
June 20, 9pm (CET): Slovakia – England in Saint-Etienne