Why Is England Not a Favorite in Euro 2012?
England national football team made the latest Time magazine’s cover story. Titled “The World’s Most Disappointing Football Team,” it is something that only a few would argue against.
I’ve been following the progress of England in every major tournament in the last 16 years and disappointment has been a faithful friend to the campaigns. No matter how promising they looked on paper, somehow you knew that there was no happy ending to the story.
England had always been a favorite in every previous tournament, except Euro 2008 in which they didn’t qualify, thanks to its Premier League superstars. The Golden Generation, consists of the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, looked like a world-beater that would set the pitch on fire, but they just didn’t.
Dubbed as one of the perennial contenders, England always found a premature way out of the competition: from the shameful first-round exit in Euro 2000; humiliated by the genius of Ronaldinho (or a terrible positioning by goalkeeper David Seaman) in 2002 World Cup quarterfinals; beaten by Portugal in penalty shoot-out — England’s favorite coup de gras — in 2004 Euro quarterfinals; another penalty shoot-out defeat to Portugal in 2006 World Cup quarterfinals, this time coupled with Wayne Rooney’s sent-off and the infamous Cristiano Ronaldo’s wink; failing to qualify for Euro 2008 during Steve McLaren’s ill-fated tenure as England manager; to the Bloemfontein humiliation in 2010 World Cup round of 16 where Germany crushed the rigid and outdated Fabio Capello’s England 4-1.
England’s underachievement is epitomized in the classic debacle about whether Gerrard and Lampard can play together in the national team. You know things don’t go your way when the partnership between two most iconic players of their generation are seen as the symbol of failure and mismanagement instead of success.
The Euro 2012 is upon us. What’s a little bit unusual is that England can be hardly considered one of the tournament favorites.
The sentiment doesn’t pop out of nowhere because once you look into the squad of the Three Lions, you will not find the same thrill and false excitement you felt 5 or 6 years ago. Gerrard is still in the team and has been handed the captain armband, so are England’s brave heart John Terry who will be the pillar in defense and the ever-present Ashley Cole on the left.
Yet despite the emergence of younger talents like Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck, nothing is really exciting about the team’s prospect. Not to mention the absence of Wayne Rooney in the first two games, including the crucial opener against France on Monday, that may put Andy Carroll as the lone striker upfront.
Having said that, if you put things into perspective, actually the England team this year is not particularly worse than the one in World Cup 2010. In some department, it looks slightly better.
For instance, this England can cherish for having Joe Hart as the first-choice under the bar — arguably the best England goalkeeper since David Seaman — instead of the unconvincing David James and Robert Green in South Africa. Matthew Upson is nowhere to be seen around the squad and England could have boasted a terrific Chelsea defense partnership in Terry, Cole, and Gary Cahill — if only the latter wasn’t injured in friendly against Belgium last week.
But Joleon Lescott is not too shabby as a replacement and there’s still young and talented Phil Jones as the other option. Yes, no Gareth Barry and no Frank Lampard, but they will not be sorely missed, especially Lampard who would be unlikely to start.
If the Three Lions squad is, in a way, better than the last tournament, then why is not England made a favorite in Euro 2012? Maybe because they shouldn’t have been. Maybe the glamour and glitter of Premier League bonanza overshadowed the true strength of the England team that made the Three Lions looked bigger and taller than they really were.
If England, somehow, find another early exit in this Euro in an epic fashion, maybe we shouldn’t consider them as underachieving, but rather, staying true to their power. A standard, on-par performance that everyone has expected.
When Roy Hodgson was appointed as England manager, some people were devastated not to see the much-favored Harry Redknapp at the helm. Contrary to popular opinion, some football analysis done by the experts suggested that Hodgson is a much more tactical manager than the wheeler-dealer Redknapp, something that’s believed will benefit England.
And based on the previous friendly matches, Hodgson’s tactics looked similar to Greece in 2004: rigid, discipline defense with a reliance on counter-attack. If Greece could go all the way to win the Euro eight years ago, maybe Hodgson’s England could follow the path and shock the world. For Angelos Charisteas in 2004, read Andy Carroll in 2012.
I’ll be humming to the tune of Great Escape once England gets an early lead and emulate Otto Rehhagel‘s strategy to defend to death. No expectation. England can’t be more disappointing than before.