England’s defeat to Italy on Sunday evening was crushing, but also proved what an excellent job Roy Hodgson has done since he took control of the team just over a month ago. Despite the unconvincing quarter final loss, England fans can remain very optimistic regarding the future of the national team – In my opinion, there were many positives to take from the Three Lions’ Euro 2012 campaign.
It’s clear to see Hodgson has quickly implemented his own footballing philosophy on the side. His preferred defensive style has become very evident, even since his first game in charge. These tactics have resulted in 4 clean sheets from 6 matches. The centre back partnership of Joleon Lescott and John Terry has looked strong and organized, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson have both had impressive individual tournaments and Joe Hart provided much needed security in goal. The deep defensive line that Hodgson has adapted for England is fast becoming an England hallmark, as the sea of white shirts that greets every incoming attack surely makes for considerable frustration for their opponents. England’s new-found ability to grind-out results is also very important; this has been enhanced by the improved defensive attitude throughout the team.
The team were often criticized throughout the tournament for their inability to keep possession. This argument was certainly given more weight after the defeat to the Italian, as possession statistics favoured Pirlo and co with 82%. Obviously the ex-West Brom manager didn’t have as much time as he’d have liked to prepare the squad for the competition. The attacking side of England’s game suffered as a result. Hodgson will obviously target this aspect of England’s game and look to eradicate any problem as soon as possible. But, at the end of the day, Hodgson’s England team still remain unbeaten – a very unlikely scenario considering the events prior to the competition.
Since the start of Euro 2012, the player’s passion and pride when playing for their country has become very obvious. England’s first place finish in Group D did not come easily. Each point came as a result of hard graft as the players fought until the final whistle. The England player’s determination has definitely been noted by the fans back home; the squad can now leave Poland and Ukraine knowing they gave everything they could. In my opinion, this summer, the pride of the English national team has been restored.
After the defeat to Italy, Hodgson gave a special mention to the English fans. In the future this will be vital for the Three Lions. The support and encouragement the players received had a big impact at Euro 2012. Following the 64-year-olds surprise appointment as head coach, the large majority of the country seemed reluctant to embrace Hodgson as the team’s new manager. However this has been far from reality, the whole of England has been behind the team, even from the first kick of the ball in the opening fixture against France.
On top of this, we must remember that a number of key players were missing this tournament. As Hodgson announced his final 23-man squad, the majority of fans dismissed any chance of progression past the group stages. Injuries to Gary Cahill, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry could have greatly impacted the team’s performance at the tournament. However, the players proved their versatility and got the job done without them. When the next international tournament comes round, hopefully luck will be on England’s side, allowing them to start a tournament with a full strength side.
For me, Jack Wilshere was the absentee who would have made the greatest difference. He’s had a torrid season hampered with injury. When he’s fully fit he adds sheer class to the England squad. Having represented his country at all levels, he already has 5 caps for the first team. In these games his quality has been obvious to see.
In my opinion the young Arsenal midfielder will be the key to any possible national success in the future. In his short career so far Wilshere has earned a number of accolades including the PFA Young Player of the Year, PFA Team of the Year, and Arsenal’s Player of the Season as voted on by the fans for his performances in his first full season for Arsenal during the 2010–11 season. At the age of just 20, he has massive potential at both club and international level. If he can overcome his injury problems and regain fitness for the start of next season, expect him to play a major role in England’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
The next challenge for the Three Lions is reaching the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and Hodgson believes he has seen enough to suggest that they now have a base on which to build.
The number of young players that will eventually break into the first team is also a big reason for optimism. The likes of Jack Butland, Martin Kelly, Phil Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck have already experienced the tournament atmosphere as they became a part Hodgson’s final 23-man-squad at Euro 2012. The latter of these players looked extremely promising whenever they were given a chance on the pitch, Welbeck even scored England’s winner against Sweden. Chris Smalling and Kyle Walker would have also made the squad had injuries not prevented their inclusion. These players have both proven their potential at club level. Particularly Kyle Walker – who was awarded PFA Young Player of the Season, in the most recent Premier League campaign.
These player’s all have great futures ahead of them. I think we’ll definitely see the majority included in Hodgson’s 2014 World Cup squad, alongside any other young stars that emerge throughout the next two seasons.
Clearly English fans have a lot to look forward to between now and the next major international tournament in Brazil. Plenty of positives can be drawn from the heartbreak of the sides Euro 2012 exit. Hodgson will continue to implement his defensive philosophy on the side, hopefully as this develops, so will the attacking side to the Three Lions tactics. This game plan will incorporate all the young stars of the future England squad, including all those mentioned above. This will only benefit the team in years to come. In my opinion, the foundations have now been set for success within at least the next decade. Even if this doesn’t go to plan, look on the Brightside, the squad now have two years to continue practicing penalties.