Normally, English fans are full of optimism prior to an international tournament before the Three Lions crush their hopes with an early exit. However, Euro 2016 may be the start of a new era for England, as there seems to be legitimate hope for the future thanks to a promising core of young players.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).
The experienced Roy Hodgson took over the national team a few months before Euro 2012. He took England to the quarterfinals, but was knocked out in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup. Now armed with some promising youngsters and a proactive squad, Hodgson has a chance to make amends for those previous poor results.
4-2-3-1 – (GK) Hart – (D) Rose, Cahill, Smalling, Clyne – (DM) Dier, Milner – (AM) Sterling, Rooney, Alli – (F) Kane
MORE ON EURO 2016: Sportsnet has you covered with in-depth coverage of Euro 2016 in France, which runs from June 10 to July 10.
GROUP B SCHEDULE
June 11: vs. Russia in Marseille
June 16: vs. Wales in Lens
June 20: vs. Slovakia in Saint-Etienne
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
England breezed through qualifying with 10 wins from its 10 matches to top Group E. The Three Lions scored an astounding 31 goals while conceding just three times. However, it’s worth noting that the English earned nine victories during 2010 World Cup qualification before being knocked out in the round of 16.
England has more depth than usual, so Hodgson has tons of options available to him. Adam Lallana enjoyed a renaissance under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and could end up starting. Jamie Vardy has had strong performances for the national team since he was called up as well. A healthy competition for places should keep everyone on their toes throughout the tournament.
The youthful feel of the squad is both a strength and a weakness. The likes of Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Nathaniel Clyne are talented, but handling expectations in a high-pressure situation will be a big test. There is also a slight worry with the centre backs due to a lack of depth. Chris Smalling is solid, but Gary Cahill has been hit-and-miss, and John Stones is the only other natural central defender in the squad.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Dele Alli: The 20-year-old midfielder was playing for MK Dons during the 2014-15 season. Now Alli is a key player for Tottenham and is surely destined to start for England. Despite his young age, the midfielder shows great composure, vision and technique. The former quality is one that several English internationals have lacked in recent years.
Wayne Rooney: Rooney ended the Premier League season in midfield and his best years seem to be past him, but no matter what, he will be a starter for England when fit. The question is, will Hodgson relegate Rooney to the bench if he underwhelms in France? With Vardy waiting with baited breath, it’s a certain possibility.
Harry Kane: Kane was labeled a “one-season wonder” after a slow start to the campaign. The Spurs forward ended up claiming the Golden Boot with 25 goals, he is in form and has a strong understanding with Alli. That partnership should make English supporters purr.
What formation will Hodgson deploy? The England manager experimented with a few different systems during pre-Euro 2016 warmups. He utilized a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2. The former appears to garner the most attacking potential out of the players, especially for Kane and Alli. However, comfort with a specific tactic does not always prevail.
PROSPECTS IN FRANCE
England has the quality to win Group B. If it does move on as a group winner, it will face a third-placed team from Group A, C or D. That side will likely be one of Romania, Albania, Ukraine, Poland, Croatia or Turkey. Therefore, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect a quarterfinal appearance from the English.
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