In a few hours from the time this blog is posted Poland will play Greece to kick off this year’s European Championship. Here are things I’m considering as the deal starts.
A Word On The Ferdinand Fiasco
The England squad have qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2004. There has been a bit of contention with the manager resigning before the tournament and the process of selecting a new man that went on until nearly the end of the season. Then once that took place there was the usual shenanigans over the squad selection.
What is it about choosing the England squad that makes people in the media so uptight? Get me right. I would have picked Rio Ferdinand in the England squad ahead of anyone else. He is the best English central defender. Better than Jagielka, Jones, Cahill, Smalling or Terry. He’s had a better season than any of those defenders in terms of his performances. So he’s the better central defender. But he hasn’t been picked.
He wasn’t picked for the initial squad and there’s a stand-by list in case players get injured. As I read it, he wasn’t on that list. So the brother had plenty of time to kick up a fuss and talk about lack of respect and that kinda jazz. No, he waits until the umpteenth defender is withdrawn and then he complains, and not only that but he doesn’t have the guts to make the full complaint himself, but he needs his representative to cry on his behalf. I think all of that is pathetic really. What’s the point? What is gained with those moves?
If you keep your trap shut and carry on with your football, if your comments are supporting the nation in the tournament, you gain people’s respect and sympathy and you prove yourself to be a class act. As it is, all you show by behaving this way is what a chump and sore loser you are. If you want an explanation, ask the man. If the man doesn’t give you an explanation – and he doesn’t owe it to you – then get over it. What are you hoping to gain by airing your annoyance in public and get your rep involved as well? As I said – pathetic. It doesn’t detract from him being the better player than the others at the tournament. It detracts from any claim that the brother is a class act, which he is most of the time. (Oh and this isn’t an issue about having the right to air your views, this is an issue of how you look once you exercise that right.)
England Doesn’t Expect Much
Thankfully there is more to the England squad than Rio Ferdinand. Experts have already ruled out England as a likely winner for the tournament. As a result selecting younger players to come in the squad is a good move by Hodgson – he literally has nothing to lose. It’s not about throwing away the tournament and not putting your best foot forward, it is more about getting the right balance in the squad that creates a platform going forward. I don’t think it is the best squad, but it’s hardly a chump squad.
How many world class players do England have at the moment anyway? One, maybe two? Rooney is set as a world class player. Hart has a chance to establish the credential with this tournament. Other than that Gerrard and Lampard are on the decline so Lamps not being there is a bit of a blow, but hardly the end of the world. What you’re left with after that are fairly good Premier League player. That means the team can go into the tournament, hoping to play something like … get this … a team.
I’m not sure exactly what the reason has been, but ever since the Eriksson years I’ve not been convinced I’ve seen England play as a team in tournament games. I’ve not been convinced by their ability to maintain possession, I’ve not been convinced by their ability to press home any advantage they have and convert them into goals and I’ve not been convinced that they themselves believe in their ability as a team to play to the requirements set to overcome better teams than them. That lack of conviction has seen England arguably under-acheive in tournaments. Now the players have a chance to change all that.
Hodgson might not be the most charismatic of personalities, but he’s managing England in just the right time that he can apply the same mentality that he gave to Fulham, because England are kinda the Fulham of international football. They have one or two good players, but nobody’s kidding themselves in thinking they will win anything, and thus they can surprise others by being tight, compact and able to break well. When you look at the squad with the pace of the likes of Young they can play that way.
Being without Rooney for those first two games, makes their jobs harder … and easier. Harder in the sense that their best player is not in the team, but easier in the sense that the pressure isn’t on them to dominate and win matches. England are more than able to put together good performances to get through the group stages, and in my opinion if they play in a disciplined manner and are able to stay tight and hard to beat they can make progress through the knock out stages. Beyond that it’s all about England performing as well as they can and Hodgson getting a good idea of the players he’ll have to use as the core of the squads that will play in the qualifiers for the World Cup in 2014.
Oh And About The Rest Of Euro 2012
Who will win the Euros? I’m not fussed really. It would be easy to say Spain, but I don’t believe they’ll retain the trophy. I don’t think they’ll pull of the level of consistent performance to get them through the knock out stages to lift it.
I reckon Germany could win it this year, just because they’re at a advanced stage in their development from what they did in the World Cup in South Africa. They have good players, but more importantly they have a good system of play that isn’t too player dependent. They know how to play and they know how to graft and success in tournament football is more about grafting intelligently than it is about playing top football all the time. So were I a betting man I’d put money on Germany.
This is the first international tournament where I wish I Sky had coverage of the games. I have ridiculed ITV in the past, but I’m more of the impression that they have some good points, but not enough to get me thinking they have a quality broadcast team. I’m left with the BBC, but seriously the likes of Lineker, Hansen and Lawrenson are getting tired and stale. Shearer has never made for riveting viewing and analysis. So the hope is that they’ll have other pundits to put life in the occasion. I do hope so.
It will be an interesting tournament to watch this year, because of the location, because of the levels of expectation on England and also because at my age, having seen the football I have, there isn’t as much excitement heading into a tournament like this. Still, it’s football at the highest level, it’s on the telly, it’s a talking point as well as a viewing point – let’s have it.