Euro 2012: Roy Hodgson and Managers Under the Most Pressure
Hodgson first ignited England's rabid fan base by omitting Rio Ferdinand from the Euro 2012 roster. He claimed the decision was made purely for football reasons. Reading strike Jason Roberts tweeted that this claim is "insulting the people's intelligence."
Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph speculates that Ferdinand was snubbed because his brother Anton was allegedly racially abused by John Terry. Playing Ferdinand and Terry on the same side would thus come with it's share of locker room drama.
The news that Terry tweaked his hamstring on Saturday and now may not be fit for tonight's match only fuels the fire burning under Hodgson's decision.
Terry isn't the only player Hodgson could be missing, either. Star forward Wayne Rooney is suspended. Gareth Barry was ruled out of the tournament with an abdominal injury. Danny Welbeck and Glen Johnson have been nursing ankle and toe injuries. Scott Parker's health is questionable as well.
As Andrew Anthony of the Observer points out, "hysterical optimism is the traditional prelude to an early England exit." Perhaps this firestorm will actually help Hodgson, a manager who thrives under circumstances of low expectation.
But if it doesn't, don't expect him to be treated with much grace.
At least Hodgson isn't alone. Here are four other managers facing intense pressure heading into Euro 2012.
Franciszek Smuda, Poland
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On paper, Poland is the Euro 2012's weakest team. The side is ranked 62nd in the world by FIFA, by far the worst in the field of 16. It only qualified for the tournament as a host.
But don't let the low expectations fool you. Host teams always face intense pressure from playing in front of a home crowd.
Not convinced? The Krakow Post may help:
"After six years of frantic construction and meticulous planning for Euro 2012, all the goodwill and enthusiasm of people across the country could unravel in an instant," writes James C. Muus.
A 1-1 draw with Greece in the tournament opener kept the Polish hopes alive. It also came as a disappointment after Poland led the match 1-0.
Manager Franciszek Smuda later commented that some of his players were "paralyzed by the pressure," according to FIFA.com.
Vicente Del Bosque, Spain
It doesn't matter what Real Madrid defender Raul Albiol says.
Defending a Euro title always comes with pressure. Doing it as the reigning World Cup champions is even weightier.
Spain used to battle their perceived identity as perennial underachievers. The pressure from failing to win mounted with every early exit in major tournaments as Spain went 44 years without a trophy before 1988.
Now the Spanish face a new challenge. Now that they are on top of the world, anything but a title will come as a letdown.
Albiol insists Spain embrace the pressure as they try to become the first side to win three consecutive international tournaments, according to a story on IBN Live:
"We love being favorites, because we have earned it," the center-half told the Spanish Football Federation's website.
"It took us many years to achieve. But the team knows they have to maintain the same humility and the same work they have carried in recent years. This is what won us a World Cup, as well as the footballing talent of each player."
His tune may change if his team struggles early.
Laurent Blanc, France
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France manager Laurent Blanc is under pressure to erase painful memories from recent international tournaments. He says so himself, according to Luis Mira of Goal.com.
"Everyone is under pressure, the players and the technical staff," Blanc told Telefoot. "I feel that everyone wants to be at their best for the first game against England."
Les Bleus finished last in their group in both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. France won only one of nine group games in their last three tournaments.
But the team has not lost a match since September 2010. The 20-match unbeaten streak includes notable victories in friendly matches over Brazil, Germany and England.
Nevertheless, Les Bleus still have a long way to go.
"Euro 2008 was a fiasco, and the World Cup in 2010 was even worse," explains Ronan Folgoas, football writer for French daily Le Parisien, according to Ben McPartland of France24.com. "Yes, they have won a lot of friendly matches, but the games at Euro 2012 will be totally different. There will be a lot of pressure on this young team."
Bert Van Marwijk, Holland
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A 1-0 loss to Denmark put enormous pressure on the 2010 World Cup runner-up to beat one of the world's best teams.
Despite out shooting their opponents 27-5 in their Euro 2012 opener, Holland suffered defeat in a draw billed as "The Group of Death." Now they must defeat Germany or face elimination.
"We need two wins,” said Rafeal Van der Vaart, according to Jeremy Wilson of the Telegraph. “We just have to beat Germany now on Wednesday. This will be like a final for us.”
Holland's surprising run to the 2010 World Cup final added plenty of pressure on the Dutch coming into Euro 2012. After an even more surprising loss, that pressure only mounts.
All this comes after Bryan Waters reported a camp split between manager Bert Van Marwijk and his players over alleged racial taunts.