World Football: Five Reasons Why England Can Still Win Euro 2012
England currently sit in second place in Group G for Euro 2012, three points behind Montenegro against whom they recently drew with at Wembley.
That result prompted yet more criticism, perhaps not completely unjustly, to be hurled at the England players and staff.
England retain some of the biggest names in football in their starting XI—not to mention their manager—but to truly go down as amongst the elite the players must produce at the international level.
With many of the current squad approaching the end of their careers, Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine could well be their last chance to achieve this ambition.
1. Decent Qualifying Position
The recent disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Montenegro has taken the shine off what had been a strong start to the qualification programme.
However, despite trailing the ever-improving Montenegro by three points in the current standings, the Three Lions have played a game less and a win in their next game match take them back to the top of the table.
England’s 4-0 and 3-1 wins over Bulgaria and Switzerland have also given them a decent advantage in terms of goal difference over Montenegro, who despite their incredibly strong start, have only scored three times in four matches.
With two derby matches against Wales still to come, plus trips to both Bulgaria and Montenegro, England’s qualification is by no means guaranteed. But they should still be regarded as favourites for the group and odds-on to reach the finals in Poland and Ukraine without too many more slip ups.
Capello’s Last Act
Fabio Capello confirmed earlier this season that he won’t be staying on as England manager when his contract expires after Euro 2012.
The Italian has also let it be known that the England role will be his last, so the 2012 tournament will be Capello’s final act in football.
Capello has been successful and won silverware at every club he has managed, so he will no doubt be determined to make sure that his single foray into international management doesn’t lead to his career ending on a sour note.
His legacy at home and throughout most of Europe is already assured given the size of his trophy cabinet collected from AC Milan, Real Madrid, via Roma and Juventus. But the English press will be much less forgiving.
Whilst perhaps not his priority it would not sit comfortably with Capello to be remembered in England for what he didn’t win with the national team ahead of his long list of honours at club level.
Ah Rooney, you just can’t escape the man at the moment.
Whilst his club career no longer hangs in the balance, there were many implications for his future in the national team.
Presumably Ferguson wouldn’t have let his star striker rot in the reserves right up until Euro 2012 and the end of his contract, yet in any case the resolution of the issue will come as a welcome relief to Fabio Capello and England.
Rooney’s performances in South Africa were a huge disappointment, but some stability and hopefully some reinvigoration of his club career can help propel him towards his best form once again.
The European Championships have arguably seen the best ever form of Rooney’s career when as an 18-year old he burst onto the international scene with four goals in as many games.
A series of spectacular performances at Euro 2004 was only ended via injury early on against Portugal and the Three Lions tournament hopes arguably disappeared with him.
England can only hope that he can reach these heights again at Euro 2012.
England’s senior team may still be struggling for success but there seems to be more promise further down the age ladder.
The under-21 side reached the European Championships semi-final in 2007 before losing in the final in 2009 against a Germany side containing Manuel Neuer, Jermone Boateng, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.
From that side James Milner, Adam Johnson and Joe Hart have already progressed to become key members of England’s first XI going forward and the likes of Phil Jones, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Rodwell are expected to join them before long.
Indeed the Arsenal pair of Wilshere and Gibbs won their first senior caps against Hungary this August in a friendly international at Wembley.
The under-17 side went one better than their under-21 counterparts in May this year when they defeated Spain in the final to win the Euro Under-17 Championship.
England fans can be hopeful that the likes of Conor Wickham, Josh McEachran and Benik Afobe continue their progress, and hopefully enjoy success at senior levels before long.
More Realistic Fan Expectation
Spectacular failure in South Africa this summer may well have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Built up to the heavens as possible—nay, probable—World Champions, England’s heroes fall hard after their 4-1 mauling at the hands of arch rivals Germany in the second round.
The latest in a string of defeats in the face of unrealistic expectation could finally lead to more realistic aims and, fingers crossed, perhaps even the ditching of the mythical "Golden Generation" tag.
England’s record in the European Championship is actually distinctly average.
Since the tournament’s shift to its current format in 1980, England have only won a grand total of one knock-out match in six of the eight tournaments they qualified for.
Even that success over Spain in the Euro ’96 quarter-final was on penalties, and only then after the Spaniards had been wrongly denied on more than one occasion by an incorrect offside decision.
It might be hoping for too much, but perhaps with expectations lowered to a reasonable level the players might just be able to surprise us after all. We can at least hope so anyway.