So... one new manager, countless injuries and many dubious decisions later, and England seem in a worse position for Euro 2012 than they did before the departure of one Fabio Capello. Since then, Roy Hodgson has been selected as the man to lead England onwards and upwards towards continental glory. However, this is now seeming like a distant dream after the final squad was selected a few weeks ago...
Firstly, there seemed to be a real lack of depth in quality compared to other sides in the competition. For example, if players like Scott Parker, Ashley Young or Glen Johnson were to get injured, then an adequate replacement would be hard to find with the squad members at Hodgson's disposal. In contrast, Spain could easily suffer injuries to six players in their team and still play a world class starting eleven, something that England wouldn't be able to do. The Three Lions have already suffered a major blow months before the first match has even begun; the fact that Rooney won't be available for the first two matches. This means Hodgson must select an inexperienced striker to lead the attack against the French and Swedish defences, a fate that would not be envied by even the most prolific of forwards.
Moreover, there has been an obvious emission of good footballers who should've been given a chance to represent England during this tournament. No Aaron Lennon, Grant Holt, Adam Johnson, Micah Richards, Rio Ferdinand and countless other names that have been mentioned. Instead, Hodgson appears to have chosen a squad that is not very adventurous in the slightest (maybe the decision to bring Oxlade-Chamberlin was one with a certain risk element that looks likely to pay off, but apart from that, the squad looks bland compared to the one of the Capello era). It is also strange to see that there is a Liverpudlian sextet in the squad, including Gerrard, Kelly, Johnson, Henderson, Downing and Carroll, despite the side finishing mid-table in the league. Only one of those players (captain Steven Gerrard) deserves a place in the side based on seasonal form, whilst the others have had very average season at best.
England now have a new tactic which has been evident in the last five games (excluding the 3-2 loss to Holland) and that is to score a lucky goal and proceed to 'park the bus'. They have initiated this against teams such as Norway, Belgium, group opponents Sweden and most impressively, the mighty Spanish. On this evidence, it may seem like a great tactic to use, despite the tedious football being played, but what happens if we concede? I doubt that England have the mentality that would allow us to switch from ultra defensive to a plan of attacking intent. Essentially, if the other team draw level with England, they will need a whole tactical rethink.
In conclusion, progression from the group stages is not going to be as inevitable as the bookies and press have made it seem in previous tournaments . Infact, if we do manage to win Group D and progress to play Italy/Croatia in the quarter finals, it would certainly be a great achievement. With both the French and the Swedish showing the threats they carry in the pre-tournament friendlies and Ukraine having the advantage of being a host nation, Roy Hodgson's new side face a stern test at Euro 2012.