France vs. England: 5 Reasons Roy Hodgson's Team Can Spring an Upset
England's Euro 2012 campaign kicks off on Monday with a much anticipated clash against France in Ukraine.
It's fair to say that England's preparation for the tournament has been far from ideal.
Roy Hodgson has been in charge of the team for barely a month after Fabio Capello's shock resignation earlier this year.
England have looked far from convincing in many of their matches over the last 12 months, and controversy continues to haunt the team after Rio Ferdinand's recent omission from the squad.
Despite all this, England still stand a good chance of beating France.
Find out how after the jump.
1. Realistic Expectations
The very fact that England are considered underdogs for this fixture is perhaps a good thing.
Normally, England swagger into a tournament with inflated expectations and are quickly cut down to size by better teams.
This time, everyone knows that the England are more or less in disarray, and the members of the so-called “golden generation” (David Beckham, Michael Owen, Rio Ferdinand, etc.) are all but gone.
As such, Roy Hodgson might just be the best man for the job.
He has built a career on maximising the performances of unfancied sides, and this is exactly the situation that England find themselves in at present.
As long as the players are willing to listen to his instructions and play in the disciplined, unspectacular manner that Hodgson favours, England will stand a good chance of frustrating the French and getting a win.
2. England Can Get Goals Without Rooney
Almost any team in the world would be improved by the presence of Wayne Rooney, and England are no exception.
He is a world-class attacking threat, not just due to the goals he scores, but because of the overall menace that he provides in the final third.
England will badly miss him against France, but they still have other individuals within the squad who can get goals.
Danny Welbeck may well start the game, and has been in fine form for Manchester United this season.
England also have a pair of Arsenal players, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, who have created and scored a lot of goals in the last 12 months.
Add the likes of Steven Gerrard and Ashley Young to the mix, and there’s no reason why England can't get the goals they need in Ukraine.
3. Joe Hart Is in Goal, Not Rob Green
The tone for England’s entire World Cup campaign in 2010 was set by one farcical moment against the United States in the Three Lions’ opening game.
Clint Dempsey hit a soft shot towards England’s goal, which should have been easily saved by the keeper, Rob Green.
Instead, Green spilled the ball and gifted the U.S. a goal.
England never really recovered from this moment—in either the game, or the tournament as a whole—and it showed the vital importance of a strong goalkeeper to any football side.
England now have one in Joe Hart, who was magisterial between the sticks for Manchester City this season.
He brings much needed calm, presence and authority to England’s performances, and France will have to produce something exceptional to beat him.
4. France Are Far from Unbeatable
France are rightly considered as favourites for this clash, but they are not necessarily the force of old.
In defence, France have even bigger issues.
Hugo Lloris showed a propensity for making big mistakes during the last World Cup, and the mere fact that Philippe Mexes is a starting centre-back says a huge amount about France’s defensive options.
In the recent friendly against Iceland, France conceded twice, even if they managed to come back and win the game.
That might show great team spirit, but it also shows that France are a team that can leak goals, and are far from unbeatable.
5. England Have a Lot of Players with a Lot to Prove
While there is an undoubted streak of quality within the England squad, they also have players coming into this tournament with a lot to prove.
Andy Carroll, Stuart Downing and Jordan Henderson have all had very poor seasons.
The three players cost Liverpool a lot of money and have failed to light up the Premier League since their transfers.
Maybe, away from the glare of Anfield, they will find their feet again.
Stuart Downing might even get that assist that he’s been looking for all season.
Stranger things have happened, after all.