So here we go, another day of high expectation for English football and another day that will end in disappointment?
That’s what always seems to happen, usually through the medium of penalties, however at least this tournament, when discussing the England team, appears to be different so perhaps the outcome against Italy today will be?
To many it is a surprise thatEngland are kicking off today. I don’t really buy that. True if England hadn’t qualified from their group I’d say fine that’s perhaps understandable given the circumstances around the squad, injuries to key players a new manager with little time to prepare and all that. However, despite all this the squad still has enough about it to ensure qualification. Had they been in Ireland’s group that might have been another matter however this one, although they were cut some slack re expectations, deep down there shouldn’t be too much excuse?
What is surprising is that England topped their group. The three games they’ve played haven’t really produced the nail biting hanging on by finger tips (I guess you can only do one or the other, not both) situations that England have been so used to in previous tournaments. Their football hasn’t been all flowers and romance however it’s been perversely satisfying not because it’s been good or particularly entertaining but because you’ve seen sense and logic applied. There are no delusions of grandeur just straight forward common sense, a sense of organisation and, dare a say it, a gritty togetherness that, for once, mirrors the spirit the fans hark on about so much but all to often fail to see from their team in major tournaments? For many they are in a good place. They are intent on being difficult to beat which will p*ss off a lot of people which is just what many English fans will love!
In Roy Hodgson England have a potential cult figure. It’s a far cry from the stifling form we produced under him however, circumstances were different, we were expected to kick on from Rafa and compete with the best in Premiership. With England expectations weren’t as high and time was short. I suspect this suited Roy, he could do a short term job and quickly produce something that could compete in this tournament a “horses for Euro courses” approach? Because of this it is no surprise that the emphasis has been on defence however, I don’t think England have been too reticent in attack one only has to see how they hit back against Sweden after going behind?
It’s a strange situation to be talking about a stoic England defence that contains Glen Johnson however; perhaps we can take a lesson from England’s approach? Hodgson’s organisation has meant Johnson and Ashley Cole have been able to push down the flanks as midfielders tuck in. Reds fans will also be mildly peeved that Steven Gerrard has produced his best form of the season for his country! He has had a hand in the majority of goals scored and, with Scott Parker, has played an unselfish role protecting the back four. Andy Carroll can consider himself unlucky not to start today particularly as Wayne Rooney, his goal aside, looked very rusty against Ukraine. Nonetheless physically and psychologically he will have benefited from the game and the goal he scored, even though my granny (or one of Wayne’s grannies?) could have knocked it home!
Italy? I was going to say they’ve quietly progressed then I realised it was because I haven’ seen any of their games! Much attention has been focused on Balotelli, (the Italian Gazza?) however I’ve no doubt Hodgson will be more than aware of the other threats they can pose.
The tournament appears to be going to form now. Spain had a trouble free win over France and now off the field England fans are slowly beginning to put away suppressed expectations. There was no pressure on the team however qualifying from the group stage means the corsets have been loosened, the flags are out and the usual talk of winning the thing is rife. Many are now talking about playing Germany in the semi finals as if beating Italy is a mere bagatelle!
Make no mistake beatingn Italy will be an achievement, overcoming Germany, on the evidence of their form so far in the tournament will be monumental one? However, to date it’s been a tournament of happy surprises for England, dare anyone say it will continue?