England head into Euro 2016 as the bookmakers’ fourth favourites having won all 10 of their qualifying games and 10 of their last 12 matches heading into the tournament, including a win over World Champions Germany back in March. But just how good are the Three Lions really?
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Roy Hodgson’s side start their Euro 2016 campaign today in the south of France as England take on an injury-plagued Russia. The Three Lions are heavy favourites to win their group and three points in their opening game would set them on course to do just that. William Hill are offering a cool 5/6 that England progress as group winners.
Following their match at the Stade Vélodrome this evening, England face Wales in the much anticipated all-British affair on Thursday and finish the group with Slovakia on Monday in Saint-Étienne.
For any optimists out there, England haven’t come into this tournament very well prepared despite a good run of results in the build up. Manager Roy Hodgson has switched between a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and some crazy formation against 10-man Portugal that didn’t pay off. Whilst Jack Wilshere, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge were all selected despite question marks over their fitness.
Wayne Rooney hasn’t delivered much in finals since Euro 2004 but continues to start, when many would much prefer Tottenham’s Dele Alli in the number 10 after his breakout season.
As well as playing Rooney out of position, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has been playing out on the left in friendlies. Once again, an England manager not playing his players to their strengths.
A comfortable group may be Hodgson’s saving grace, for which finishing in the top two would likely see England handed a favourable draw in the second round.
As soon as, or should we say, provided England don’t slip up in any of the early rounds then you can be confident elimination will come around the quarter-finals, whenever a true test is put against them. England always slip up versus the top teams – Italy four years ago, Germany six years ago and so on…
A 100% record in qualifying can be taken with a pinch of salt given the level of opposition they were up against, as can any of the friendly victories – not that they were even impressive versus the likes of Portugal, Australia or Turkey anyway. William Hill are offering 12/5 that England are eliminated at the quarter-final stage.
Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United hold the key
Tottenham are the team that is offering England any hope – Harry Kane is the star striker who has turned most things into Gold this season, whilst Dele Alli is arguably England’s most creative player right now. Eric Dier is the only solid holding midfielder in the squad, and defensively Spurs have provided both starting full-backs; Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. William Hill are offering 15/8 that Harry Kane finishes the tournament as England’s top goalscorer.
Liverpool also provide a wealth of players – James Milner the versatile midfielder and Adam Lallana offers a bit of trickery going forward. Nathaniel Clyne should play backup to Kyle Walker, whilst it will be interesting to see how much game time Jordan Henderson gets given that he has only just come back from injury. Striker Daniel Sturridge will do well to get a run out given Kane, Vardy and Marcus Rashford have all performed well in 2016 whilst the Liverpool striker has spent much of his season injured.
Manchester United’s Chris Smalling is pivotal at the back, although for many of us we fear he may be prone to be at fault for a goal or two. Few are convinced by the England defence on the whole – Gary Cahill’s had a poor season and was found out in the last World Cup, whilst John Stones had a very poor second half of the season at Everton.
Can England go all the way? Unfortunately their squad looks weak compared to the likes of Germany, Spain, France and Belgium – and the manager certainly doesn’t rank up there with Vicente Del Bosque and Joachim Löw.