It’s been 50 years this summer since England’s football team lifted the Jules Rimet trophy. Since then, we have struggled to fulfil the expectation of a nation and lift a competitive trophy, and 30 years of hurt has quickly become 50!
Long gone are the names of Hurst, Moore, Banks, Charlton, now it’s Rooney, Kane, Vardy, and Hart who we look to power our country to European glory, but what makes this crop of Lions better than previous years? Is Euro 2016 our best chance to regain the public’s faith back into the England national football team or is it just going to be another disappointing summer of heartache with the usual ifs, buts and maybes?
Going into this summer’s Euros, the Three Lions probably have their strongest attacking threat that they have possessed in many years. In Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, England have the Premier League’s first and (joint) second top scorers in the 2015/16 season with 49 goals between them. Birmingham-born Daniel Sturridge scored a respectable eight goals in 14 games for Liverpool during an injury hit season; that’s better than a one goal in two game ratio. The surprise attaching pick of the bunch is Manchester United’s whippersnapper Marcus Rashford, who burst on the scene in February scoring five goals in 11 Premier League matches. Eight in 18 in all competitions. Rashford, although inexperienced, will have no fear going up against Europe’s elite defenders. Backing up those already mentioned is England’s all-time leading goalscorer, captain and talisman Wayne Rooney. Although the United forward has been deployed in a deeper role as of recent, he’ll still pose a serious threat to European defences and with him entering his sixth major tournament, he holds great experience in international competitions.
Scoring the goals is the easy part, right?! It’s creating the chances that is the difficult part, but England have a vast array of talent who have the key to unlock defences. As well as scoring 24 goals this Premier League season, Jamie Vardy has also assisted 12 goals to his Leicester City team mates. Out of a total of 68 Leicester Premier League goals, Vardy has been involved in 36 of them. Wow, that’s impressive. Along with Vardy, England provide the threat of assists from midfield from the likes of James Milner (11 assists), Delle Alli (10 assists), Ross Barkley (nine assists).
Never mind what threat England possesses, who offers a threat to dent England fans’ dreams of lifting that Euro 2016 trophy?
Hosts France go into the competition as favourites and have easily their best squad since World Cup 1998 (which they also hosted, and won). Their vast array of quality throughout the squad (as well as their possible first XI) is frightening. Just look at their midfield… Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye, N’Golo Kante, Dimitri Payet, Blaise Matuidi, Morgan Schneiderlin, Moussa Sissoko. The talent in this squad is ridiculous.
Germany (although without key player Marco Reus) are defensively solid with Jerome Boateng, Matts Hummels, and Manuel Neuer in goal. Going forward they will have the assist machine Mezut Ozil supplying ‘balls on a plate’ for Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller.
…but besides these two, who else?
Some may say Spain, but many will say La Furia Roja have had their ‘heyday’ and are far from being the team they were when they won the Euro’s in 2008/2012 and the 2010 World Cup. Key players such as Iker Casillas (35), Sergio Ramos (30), Andreas Iniesta (32), David Silva (30) have aged and may find themselves playing in their last European Championships. Arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Man. United’s David De Gea may find himself sitting on the bench, as rumours suggest Vincente Del Bosque prefers veteran Casillas.
Belgium on paper have incredible talent, but never seem to perform on the big stage, and with no managerial change will this be the case again? Captain Vincent Kompany with fellow defenders Nicolas Lombaerts and Dedryck Boyata have been ruled out of the tournament, but still do offer an awesome attacking threat in Eden Hazard, Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi. Deemed the ‘dark horses’ in 2014 are they the team to watch this year?!
The downside to England’s squad is arguably the defensive line. For years, England have had a strong backline with great back up, the likes of Jamie Carragher, Ledley King, Matthew Upson (to name a few) would struggle to get a game for the Three Lions with two out of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Sol Campbell being the preferred option. Going into Euro 2016 Roy Hodgson has selected only three notable centre halves in Chris Smalling, John Stones and Gary Cahill, with Eric Dier able to fill in at centre half, but having played the majority of his 2015/16 season as a defensive midfielder, the transition to centre back may be an uncomfortable one. With England keeping only one clean sheet in the last of their six matches, this surely would make the defence England’s Achilles Heel.
So to conclude, the question I asked at the start of this blog… “Can England win Euro 2016?”... My opinion is yes, yes they can, but purely on the mentality that “We’re gonna score one more than you”. I fear that when coming up against a strong team that we would certainly struggle to keep a clean sheet, BUT with the attacking threat we offer as mentioned earlier, along with potentially avoiding the likes of Spain, France & Germany until the semi-finals, this fills me with belief that this certainly could be our year? Yes, the squad has an average age of 26, but so did the Germans at Brazil in 2014 and look what happened there?!...