England enters European Championship play without three of their more prominent stars. They will be tested early in a Group D match against France where England will need to show they can be competitive without three key pieces to their national team.
Frank Lampard (thigh) and Gareth Barry (abdomen) were lost for the tournament after injuries in the week leading up to their opening game with France.
Per an AP report on ESPN.com, England manager Roy Hodgson is concerned with the loss of Lampard. "It's a huge blow for the team," Hodgson said. Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson will take Lampard's spot on the roster, but he certainly can't be expected to carry the production of one of soccer's best players.
Hodgson also said, "I'm very disappointed to lose Gareth." Barry played a big role in leading Manchester City to their first Premier League title in 44 years.
The Football Association, per an ESPN.com article, says a scan confirmed he has a torn abdominal muscle.
Everton center back Phil Jagielka will replace Barry for Euro 2012. Hodgson can be expected to rely on Phil Jones' versatility to cover for England in central midfield, but these injuries will prove to be a big blow should England make it beyond group play.
While almost impossible to consider just a week ago, there is a possibility England could falter early. They will be hurt all the more given Wayne Rooney's looming two-game suspension to open Euro 2012 play.
Rooney will miss the opening matches against France and Sweden before taking the pitch against Ukraine.
It’s always been a boyhood dream of mine to say that I represented my country in a major tournament that we’ve won and I’ve done well in.
Of course Wazza (Rooney) is a massive player—he’s one of the best in the world—and when you have world-class players missing it’s disappointing.
But we have other players who will come in and take his role in a very good way. There’s players who can come in and do that, who have done that when Wazza’s been missing.
He’s a massive loss but we can’t concentrate on him—we work on the players who are playing in the team and can go out there and perform.
Ashley Young, England and Manchester United Winger
While leaving Group D with the top seed would certainly help in their quarterfinals matchup, their real goal from group play should be mere survival. Young is an exciting playmaker, but if he is unable to help provide scoring opportunities England won't advance.
“He’s tricky and finds himself in good areas and can nick a goal,” offered England midfielder Stewart Downing in a Washington Post article. “So I think you can see in the two games he’s played what his attributes are—he can find a pass, score a goal and maybe now we have another player to play in that role as well as Rooney.”
Their second game will pit them against a Swedish side in a game that most observers might see as a win.
However, England hasn't fared well against Sweden, tallying two wins, three losses and six draws over the history of the sides.
Sweden boasts a strong offense and has won eight of their last 10 matches, including a victory over a powerful Netherlands side. Hodgson will favor a defensive game which should keep Sweden in check, but they will need to find a way to score on Sweden without Rooney.
Young has been the most effective when he is allowed to be creative on offense. That style of play isn't a strong match to Hodgson's approach to the game, though. England will have to have a solution if they wish to advance to the quarterfinals.
I think we’re going to go to the European championship and surprise a lot of people. Expectations are not as high as they have been in previous competitions but we’re talking about England here. No one can doubt the talent or the passion we have...
I don’t expect a call-up, but there’s a reason why I haven’t retired from international football, that I’ve not said 'that’s it' even at 37 years old. I always want to represent my country and I always want to be part of any England team.
I doubt it will actually happen again. But there’s always a chance. I’ll never say never. I did bring my boots back with me!
Make sure your phone is charged, Mr. Beckham, and your that boots are made for running. Your country just may need you again.