Euro 2012: 5 Things for England to Consider Ahead of Final Group Game
I think we are all relieved that England managed to defeat Sweden 3-2 in their last game. But the job is not quite done and England will need to, at least, get a final point against Ukraine on Tuesday.
So, there is plenty for Roy Hodgson to consider ahead of this final game and some big decisions to be made.
The Playing Mentaility
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I understand the reasons why England feel they need to play a counter-attacking style of football. But this is a tactic that needs to be used carefully. England still need to have periods of possession and build attacks of their own.
It is extremely naive to think that England can sit back against some of the best players in the world and not expect to get punished.
Where Does Theo Walcott Fit In?
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Theo Walcott did exactly what subs are supposed to do when he came on against Sweden—he changed the game first by scoring with a sweet strike and then by setting up Welbeck for another.
James Milner had another quiet game before the introduction of Walcott for him. England were at their best when they were trailing 2-1 and had to go for it. This is the sort of football England love to see rather than the cagey defensive stuff.
I keep hearing that Milner is in the team because of his defensive qualities. Now, I know that in modern day football it is necessary for wingers to get back and defend for his team. But call me old-fashioned if you like, but I also thought the primary job for a winger was to get forward to create and score goals. Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are a lot better at that job than Milner is.
So, Walcott to start the next game ahead of Milner? England would still have the further attacking option of Oxlade-Chamberlain to bring off the bench.
Does Wayne Rooney Come Straight Back In?
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Wayne Rooney has been suspended for the last two games, but he is now ready to show his worth at Euro 2012. However, the front two that started the game against Sweden both showed what they can do. You can't really ask much more of a striker than to put the ball in the back of the net, and they both did that in clinical fashion.
Nevertheless, Wayne Rooney is the real star of this England team, and Roy Hodgson will want to get him back involved. He will need some match fitness for the quarterfinals if England are to progress.
Is Ashley Young's Place Under Threat?
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Ashley Young has forced his way in becoming a regular in the England side, but he hasn't been at his best in the first two games at Euro 2012. He is there to provide an attacking threat, but so far that has not worked.
If he doesn't pick his game up in the next game, he may find that he is dropped if England progress. In fact, there is no guarantee he starts against Ukraine.
Should Hodgson Consider a Rest for Gerrard or Parker?
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It seems to me that England are very reliant on the two midfield players. So, it might be worth giving one of them a rest for the final game. Jordan Henderson can do a job in midfield, and Phil Jones has been given a fair bit of game time here at Manchester United.
It would, perhaps, be better to test this out in this game instead of a quarterfinal. An injury could occur at any point and it's important to have a clear understanding on the other options.