Six more days until the Euros officially kick off in Poland and Ukraine. Six days of titillating predictions of what country will pass the initial stages of the Euros. Six days of optimism for the English camp, nine days until the façade of optimism passes by for the Three Lions.
Key players are injured, with Frank Lampard (CHE) out and replaced with Jordan Henderson (LIV), Gareth Barry (MAC) out and John Ruddy (NOR) out for the tournament—but that's always the case with England. They lose key players right before the tournament every single time—like a bad habit.
Two members are questionable—Danny Welbeck (MU) and Scott Parker (TOT).
Let's not get started on Wayne Rooney's two-game ban. (Roy Hodgson wants to give him the vice-captaincy?) The hot-headed striker is going to be watching England play against France and Sweden from the stands (that means five weeks of no competitive football). Oh God, really? Sweden? They just seem to be England's achilles heel, don't they.
Hodgson was quick to take the initiative after being named the new England manager.
He was quick to choose a tactic— his formula isn't difficult to ascertain: two wingers and with Steven Gerrard doing his usual runs up the middle to help out Ashley Young and Andy Carroll (or Danny Welbeck) in quick and successive counterattacks—and created a merit system within the squad.
With the merit system, Hodgson was able to bring in young guns to the experienced and aging squad. He believes that the injection of youth into the team would help the old timers fight for their positions and ultimately see an increased output of productivity throughout the pitch. (h/t The Telegraph)
“[Jordan Henderson was] chosen on merit in the same way that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was chosen on merit. I’d be very sad if people thought I was using this tournament as experimentation for the future. I’m hoping to take a squad to the Euros who can do well. I believe the Oxlade-Chamberlains, Hendersons and Butlands of the world can help us there.”
Good for the manager as he stands by his selections and tries to groom their confidence:
“People judge Jordan on his £20 million price tag, rather than his age, 21, and potential. He’s got a very bright future. He’s a very good passer, very fit, looks after himself, doesn’t touch alcohol. He’s got a body a lot of footballers would be jealous of.’’
Hodgson has admitted that the team is in its "embryonic stages," as per The Guardian.
"As a football coach who's worked year after year, taking session after session, I find it very hard to understand how anyone can remotely imagine that, after two weeks and five training sessions, you could get a team playing the way you'd like them to play.
"If you ask me if I am happy that the players have responded well, and that the players have an idea of what we're looking for, then yes I'm happy. I think they'll be OK. But you don't mould a team in two weeks. It's not a possibility."
England fans don't want "OK," Mr. Hodgson, they want a trophy, they want something to root for. England fans want fantastic. They've had enough of the early exits, the astounding mediocrity that the team has been for the past 50 years, the all-too familiar implosions...
History isn't on the side of the Three Lions.
The national squad has not won the Euros (and did not qualify five times in the past 12 Euro competitions). For a side that, on paper, packs a punch, they underachieve somehow repeatedly.
No wonder over thousands of tickets were returned to UEFA (okay, I will concede the racism factor and the absurd prices might [or definitely] have taken a part in it]).
“Listen, when you go home early from a tournament, they’re not the best times but preparing for these tournaments, being out there, this is stuff you dream of as a young boy,’’ said Gerrard. “You want to be part of this.”
The squad flies out to Krakow on Wednesday to little fanfare, as many of the English faithful could not make it across the continent.
But England fans—and players—can all dream of the trophy, believing in faith and tenacity like Liverpool before lifting the Champions League trophy in 2005, like Greece in the Euros in 2004, Denmark in 1992 and Chelsea winning the 2012 Champions League final, England believes it will lift the trophy one day, and to them, it's every competition, even though they are let down time and time again.
Here is the schedule for the Euros.