Euro 2012: What England Must Do to Escape Group Stage

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Euro 2012: What England Must Do to Escape Group Stage
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Defense was the name of the game in England's 1-1 draw with France to open group play in the European championship. France had several scoring chances in the opening half but could muster only one goal, and the second half proved to be a defensive struggle on both sides. In the end, neither side seemed particularly broken up about the draw. 

But sooner or later you have to start winning games. For England, that should start in their next match with Sweden tomorrow. 

Having lost their first game to Ukraine, expect Sweden to come out hard and play with a sense of desperation. While this makes any opponent dangerous, it also creates several opportunities to capitalize on their mistakes. If England can spot these mental lapses, they should be able to create some big offensive opportunities for themselves.

Offense is the key to an England turnaround. France stifled them in their first match, holding them to only three total attempts at the goal. You can't score if you don't shoot, so England needs to start pushing the ball into opponent territory and finding shot opportunities. 

It starts with the stars. It's hard for any team to be successful without a solid start from their best players, so England is going to have to rely on Wayne Rooney to generate some offense. 

Rooney has had a pretty successful history in this tournament. In 23 qualifying round games he's scored 11 goals, and in his four other games he has scored four more. 

The problem is that Rooney won't be playing against Sweden thanks to a two-game suspension. That means that, while he will be critical in their final match against Ukraine, it's going to be up to everyone else to generate offense against Sweden. 

Joleon Lescott gave them their only goal against France on a header in the first half, and they have several other valuable players like Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole. Though these guys can't replace Rooney, I think England has more than enough firepower to get through Sweden. Then, once Rooney returns for their match against Ukraine, they should be in good shape.

The key is generating offense. England has a solid defensive team, but that won't mean much if they can't put the ball in the net. If they can score goals against Sweden and Ukraine, I'd expect them to move on from group play. 

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