Perennial underachievers of major tournaments, a new era for England beckons with a number of high profile retirements in the recent past. Too good for the qualifiers, but not good enough for the tournament itself is a familiar story for England. However, a new hunger within England’s ranks is becoming very clear. After some surprisingly fantastic performances by English players in an unforgettable Premier League this season it still might prove a little too difficult NOT to allow England to expect glory this time around.
How They Qualified: England made mince meat of their group and seemed in a hurry to get to France by becoming the first team to qualify for the tournament after hosts France when they completed the feat after seven games. 10 wins from 10 games would raise the spirits of any nation but not England, whose psyche is damaged after raising its expectations and being let down so many times before.
Tournament History: Semi-finals 1968, 1996.
Hodgson (above) is probably one tournament away from retirement.
Coach: Roy Hodgson.
Or Woy, as he is affectionately known due to his inability to pronounce his R’s. The England coach made his career in the Swedish league winning trophies with Halmstatds, Malmo and FC Copenhagen in the 80s an early 90s. After that he took a foray into international coaching guiding Switzerland to World Cup 94. Hodgson has also taken the helm with UAE and Finland. In England he guided Fulham to the Europa League final in 2010, nine years after parting ways with Blackburn Rovers. He lasted six months at Liverpool and saved West Brom from relegation before replacing Fabio Capello in the most important job in the country. Despite convincingly qualifying for the last two major tournaments and performing underwhelmingly in each, Woy has kept the P45 at bay with special thanks to the famous British press who seem to go easy on him for being one of football’s nice guys.
Nickname: Three Lions
Key Man: Wayne Rooney.
As captain, he would normally be the first name on the team sheet but not in this England setup. England’s all-time top scorer is currently in danger of losing his place in attack to emerging stars Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, thus leading to calls to play the Manchester United man further back in midfield or on the wing. It’s clear that he simply cannot be left on the bench because a fit and firing Wayne Rooney will improve the chances of Hodgson’s men.
One To Watch: Jamie Vardy.
There are a number of players in the England squad who Europe needs to keep their eyes open for and Jamie Vardy is one of them. He has has a set the EPL alight this season and helped Leicester City to an astonishing title. Vardy has crept his way up through the lower leagues to Premier League stardom, breaking the top division’s consecutive goals record in the process. Maybe, just maybe, and that’s a BIG maybe, he can add another chapter to his fairytale this summer in France.
June 11, 3 p.m. vs. Russia
June 16, 9 a.m. vs. Wales
June 20, 3 p.m. vs. Slovakia
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Man City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders: Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), John Stones (Everton), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), Nathanial Clyne (Liverpool), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfielders: James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Deli Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool).