Whilst I want to share your optimism sadly I can't. Had Roy Hodgson not been installed as a manager I would have said yes you are right, but he has been and whilst I rate him as a manager the tactics that look likely to be played (and their the right ones by the way) will not be matched with the personel to make them successful. Having played the game to a high level when you face teams who will keep possession better than you, and the premiership fosters players which means virtually all the qualifying teams will do that, you need to soak the pressure up and hit the teams on the break. Firstly let's not underestimate - we have one of it not the best defensive unit in the tournament - in order to do it. But it is those in front where the tactics fall down. To break and be successful you need two things. One a centre forward who can hold the ball up. Our only one is suspended for the first two games. Carroll is a handful there is no doubt but his touch is not great and he is more a target man for a second striker as opposed to a hold up merchant. Welbeck is another handful but he is a centre forward who is an athlete who works and runs the channels not someone who can make it stick time and again in the shearer mold. Even without the target man to hold the ball up, it could still be successful if you had three pacey players to trouble defences when turning defence into attack. We have those in Young, Walcott and Ox but I fear only one of those will start. Those three attacking you at pace on the break would scare any defence. Having said that RH prefers defensive minded players in those positions first and foremost and it seems Milner (probably the slowest international player we've had for a while) and even the much maligned downing may start.
Even Steven Gerard has lost that two yards of electric pace off the mark. One day we will get it right and build the squad based around the tactics required to highlight our strengths. In this case that is our back five. But we continue to miss a trick. I hope to god I am proved wrong when the first team is named and will be the first to hold my hands up. But we need to all realise we (much like Chelsea didn't) are never going to outplay anyone is this tournament. Including Sweden. The difference was Chelsea had drogba (holding the ball up) and ramires, kalou, mata and even at times Lampard joining him.
We have none of the above.
I agree that we will struggle for goals in the first two games, especially now that we have lost Lampard. I don't think anyone here has full confidence that Carroll, Welbeck or Defoe can lead the line alone up top. We will definitely struggle up top in these games.
Being difficult to beat is not solely enough, but it is a massive help. In these tournaments, once you get to knockout stages, you have to be beaten to go out. When we have Rooney back, we will not be so lightweight going forward and will have a solid enough defence to rely on and then we only need to create one or two chances. We will be more than capable of doing this with Gerrard, Young and Rooney up there.
If we can avoid defeat against France, which will be a big ask, then we go into the Sweden game knowing full well that we have a defence good enough to cope with Ibrahimovic and a midfield and attack; even without Rooney, to create chances and hurt Sweden. Whilst I am the first to remind people of our awful competitive record against Sweden, we still rarely lose to them and no doubt have a squad that is better than theirs and capable of beating them.
I would not be overly scared to go into the Ukraine game needing to win. People have misguidedly taken examples of our 1-0 defeat in Ukraine as a reason why they will be a massive obstacle, but they forget that we were already through as group winners to World cup 2010 and we had our keeper sent off after 14 minutes. Still though, people harp on about how we were outplayed in a game that was essentially of no greater significance than a friendly. I still think it will be a difficult game, especially if they are fighting to qualify and even if they are fighting for pride in front of their home fans. Still, we are the better side by far!
If we make the knockouts and avoid Spain, then we could overcome Italy or Croatia and then we would likely play Holland or Germany. I still disagree wholeheartedly with people who say we 'cannot' or 'will not' beat either of these sides, I would also disagree that it would be a 'massive' shock if we did.
These are not the points of an over-optimistic England fan, far from it. These are points which are true. I am normally the one reigning in the optimism before tournaments, but this time, the criticism of Englands team and their chances have been so fierce and widespread that I think these points are necessary to keep debate fair.
Fact: England could win the Euros and it would be far from the biggest ever shock in this tournament's history
Truth: England probably won't win this tournament, but certainly have a decent chance of making a good fist of it and letting us enjoy their standard glorious defeat in the quarter's or semi's.
Russia seem to be the ‘sexy’ choice in a group that looks full of plodders.
The Red Army should be well marshalled with Dick Advocaat at the helm before he returns to league football. He will guide a good, solid outfit who look to have plenty of attacking options but having said that could only muster 17 goals in 10 qualifying games and that was with Andorra in the group.
They are solid at the back but do miss Vasili Berezutsky at centre back, they conceded just 4 times in the qualifiers.
Russia are best priced 6/4 to win the group, which on balance looks fair and they could be a decent outside to bet for the whole thing, certainly a back to Lay on the exchanges.
A fair few tipsters have been giving Greece a big shout in this group but it’s hard to see where the goals are coming from. They will be well organised and hard to beat for sure but unless they pinch each game 1-0 they will struggle from lack of fire power.
They came through a modest looking qualifying group and goals were hard to come by - just 19 total in all 10 games but only one 0-0.
The Czech Republic look as if they are here just to make up the numbers. They finished second behind Spain but it was a long way behind Spain, they were only 2 points better off than Scotland. They beat Montenegro home and away in the play-offs and they look off the pace in this tournament even in a weak group.
If this was being played anywhere else then most would write off Poland’s chances but on home soil in a weak looking group they could surprise a few.
They will be lead by the trio from Borussia Dortmund, including the main goal hope Lewandowski, a dark horse for golden boot glory for some. They will also have players from England, France and Holland in a mixed looking squad.
They will also have the crowd and that can go one of two ways. If it inspires them then they look a team who may just have enough to get out of this group, they will play the teams in the right order anyway, starting with the beatable Czech’s and finishing with Russia and at 11/4 may even be the value to win the group.
A dual forecast of Russia and Poland @ 5/2 may be the value play here.
Poor old Denmark, they were liking their chances until the draw. It may look tough on paper and they are unlikely to go through but they will be nobody’s pushover. They were in the same qualifying group as Portugal and finished top, forcing the Portuguese into the play-offs.
They have the gifted youngster, Christian Erickson, as their main hope but it may be a dodgy defence that cost’s them.
Portugal had to come through the play-offs then, they saw off Bosnia well enough but the general feeling is how much do they rely on Ronaldo and what have they got if he fails to fire? He is good enough to carry the team certainly and with a solid defence this could be just enough to get them out of the group but if he doesn’t then it’s an early exit.
Holland are a team im finding it hard to get a grip with. They have immense talent going forward, as good as it gets really, but that World Cup final performance is hard to forgot or forgive.
They had to battle hard to top Sweden in qualifying but they did smack in 37 goals in 10 games - 16 were against San Marino though.
The Dutch may have to attack because the defence does look to be the weak link and with so many ego’s vying for attention it could be team morale that lets them down once more.
Holland are best priced 2/1 to top the group and 1.5 to qualify - looks skinny to me but on their day they are capable of winning the whole thing.
Germany are vying with Spain for favouritism and it’s easy to see why. They have a superb blend of youth and experience and all of it is good. They finished 3rd in South Africa and looked a team going forward and they came through qualifying with a perfect ten out of ten.
This could be the start of a ‘Golden Era’ of German football and if they play like they can they will win this group and look a shoe-in for the semi’s at the very least, they look quality all round.
With it hard to know what to expect from Holland then the bet has to be a straightforward one of Germany to win the group and at odds against then that could be a gift as they are good enough to win the lot.
Croatia finished second behind Greece in qualifying, that is almost all you need to know. They beat an average Turkey in the play-off’s but the truth is they look an ordinary bunch themselves.
Luka Modric is quality but he looks to have it all on his own shoulders, Nikica Jelovic, some may be shouting, but he still has it to prove for me at this level and Srna has been playing at a lower level for much of the season but can be dangerous on his day.
Italy as always will be very strong at the back but with the loss of Rossi will they have enough to get the goals to see them through a group they should get out of.
The defence and midfield will rely heavily on the triumphant Juventus side. While the defence will take care of itself the midfield looks reliant on Pirlo who is getting on and if he does succumb to injury then Italy could be in trouble.
The attack, with Balotelli and Cassano, could be anything but on their day are good enough to score at this level so they are dangerous and if they can stay free of injuries they may well be a threat.
The Irish got here thanks to play-off victory over Estonia but they weren’t far off group winners Russia so should come in with some confidence.
The thing with Ireland is you know what your going to get - hard work and a team hard to beat. Will they have enough to get goals that will send them through? They are still way too reliant on Robbie Keane to score and with a midfield looking low on quality the Irish will struggle to break down the tough defences of Italy and Spain.
They will be hard to break down themselves of course with Trappatoni having them as well drilled as any in the competition and if their rivals are not at their best then Ireland could frustate, big time.
Spain should come into this with some confidence, they are current champions and knocked off the World Cup in between for good measure. The slight concern here is that they are missing two vital team members.
In Puyol and Villa they miss players that held the team together, in defence Puyol was a master in bringing the different factors from the Spanish league together and without him there could be problems if club issues become a factor. His leadership is a huge loss.
In Villa they miss a natural goalscorer, the player they could rely on to be in the box to put the ball in the net. They have Torres, who is still a good player but he has struggled big time to find the net. The rest of the strikers are also good but World class??
Hard to know what to recommend in this group, Spain should win it but are far to short and it may be worth having a small Lay @ 1.6 on BF or possibly backing Italy to finally get it right @ 7/2. Ireland look big @ 4/1 to qualify but they need to find goals.
You have to be pretty optimistic to be backing England in this tournament to say the least. They won their qualifying group but looked average at times and now they seem to have lost most of their decent players before we have even started.
No Rooney is the main loss, the only world class striker in the squad, possibly the only world class player (Joe Hart very much excepted) in the entire squad.
They look a team short on goals and all of a sudden a team that could struggle to keep them out with injuries giving the squad a very limited look.
Roy Hodgson will get panned if England don’t deliver but it’s hardly his fault and my heart goes out to him to a degree.
They start with France who, if on their game, could rip England apart. Then they have a Sweden team whom they haven’t beaten for a long, long time and the final group game sees them pitted against one of the hosts, they will have Rooney back for that but it may be to late by then.
France could be coming together at just the right time. The problems that dogged their World Cup campaign are a thing of the past and they have genuine class running through the team.
They are inexperienced and that may be their undoing but if they hit form they will give anyone a game and given a kind draw could go deep.
The Ukraine have the advantage of being hosts but it’s hard to see what else they bring to the party. Tymoshuck in midfield is good but they are still playing Shevchenko in there as well and at 35 surely has got little but experience to offer.
They have had a nightmare at goalkeeper where they will miss all three first choice keepers, it looks like the Shakter reserve keeper will play.
Sweden may be a lively outsider to get out of the group. They look decent in midfield and with Ibrahimovic up front will have a real goal threat and they do look capable of scoring.
Their problem is in defence where they look old at centre back and have shipped plenty of goals themselves but they could adopt a polcy of scoring more than they concede and to be honest the other sides in their group, France possibly excepted, hardly look full of goals.
If France gel and are in the mood they make plenty of appeal to top the group and @ 17/10 look decent value. The price of Sweden to qualify @ 2/1 also looks tasty as the co-hosts are unknown and England have problems.
The straight forecast of France/Sweden @ 10/1 also looks worthy of a few quid or the dual forecast @ 6/1 if France don’t quite fire.
You can back England not to qualify @ 6/4.
The very best of to you all, should be a great tourney with plenty of betting opportunities.
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