England’s Euro 2012 Review
Last Sunday night England continued what seems like a long established tradition. Get out of the group stages (note, it doesn’t matter how they do it, can be by hook, crook or brilliance) and then lose on penalties in the quarter finals.
However, this quarter final was far, far different than those that preceded it. In both the recent defeats to Portugal at this stage and the loss to Brazil in 2002, at least England had given the opponents a decent match. Against Italy, England were by far and away the second best team with the Azzurri dominating possession and making far more may chances than Roy Hodgson’s men whose two banks of four certainly tried to park the bus.
This isn’t to say England had a bad tournament, far from it. There were many positives to take from Poland and Ukraine and it was a massive improvement on the disaster that was South Africa 2010.
Roy Hodgson’s tactics in this tournament were considered negative by many, and it’s easy to see why, especially when you look at the possession statistics. Negative isn’t really fair though. Hodgson was simply building a base from which to work from and working with what he had available.
You have to remember that for varying reasons England were unable to call on John Ruddy, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Kyle Walker, Micah Richards, Gareth Barry, Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverly, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick, and Darren Bent. At some point all those players would have been considered for selection for the tournament.
Who knows if any of them would have made a difference to England’s performances, but that is a lot of injuries for anyone to deal with. And you have to remember that Roy Hodgson had a month to pick his squad, drill them on his tactics and so on. I’d like to think that the former Fulham boss came into this tournament telling the squad that come 2014 World Cup qualifying, after he’s had more time, the tactics won’t be so rigid and defensive but if they were to get anything from Euro 2012, given the situation, they would have to play this set way.
After all, while his Fulham and West Brom sides were defensive they were nowhere near as defensive as England were this summer.
As I mentioned earlier Hodgson has built a good base. When defending, the back four plus Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard did very well, in four games plus an extra half an hour England conceded just three goals. The two against Sweden were big defensive errors and I doubt that they would be scored if England were defending the same situations again. That is an extremely good record and something that the team can definitely build on, especially with the manager having more time and players becoming available after injury.
Another positive was the mood inside the England camp. They appeared confident without being over-confident or cocky. They seemed happy in the camp and wanted to play for each other rather than for individual glory. Not the boredom and apparent problems within the camp under Fabio Capello in 2010 or the cocky arrogance and WAG culture that surrounded the team in 2006. It was a group of players with realistic expectations who wanted to be part of the team and play for each other and their countries. They all seemed reassuringly modest in their press conferences too.
There were negatives though. A number of players had poor tournaments, especially Ashley Young who faltered, flattered to deceive and produced very little. Nowhere near his good club form for Manchester United. Wayne Rooney, banned for this first two matches, came back into the team but looked off the pace having barely played football in the previous five or six weeks. Despite him being one of England’s best players, maybe if the situation were to arise again it would be best to leave a player banned for a portion of the tournament at home.
Another one of England’s problems was ball retention. The passing was generally woeful. The ball seemed to bounce off an England player straight to an opponent and many passes just didn’t find their man. The blame for this can’t be levelled at Hodgson; it’s a problem that permeates the British game. It isn’t a technical problem. If you put on a passing drill in training I don’t doubt that our players could hit 10/20/30/40 yard passes with accuracy. It’s more a tactical problem (if that’s the right word), the England players appear to static. They don’t make enough room for themselves, fail to find space or create an opportunity for a pass to be made, and our opponents find it so easy to read our game, mark our players and win the ball back themselves.
So there we have it, positives and negatives. A disappointing exit to a tournament where England did better than expected, there is hope for the future and certainly some good elements to build on but, and it may be a cliché but the hard work really does start now for Roy Hodgson and his men.