— Wayne Rooney (@WayneRooney) June 16, 2016
Two games into their Euro 2016 adventure and it has been a tale of two late goals for Roy Hodgson’s England. The first, scored by Russia’s Vasili Berezutski in Marseilles on Saturday night, saw England once again fail to start a European Championship campaign without a victory – an incredible run which now stretches back across nine tournaments. The second, scored by Daniel Sturridge against Wales on Thursday afternoon, should be the goal which sends England through to the knockout phase.
In truth, both England performances to date have been full of positives, yet punctuated by defensive lapses and lacklustre finishing – two traits which are not synonymous with champions, and Hodgson’s team have significant improvements to make if they are to harbour any hopes of progressing deep into the tournament. But first the positives. Wayne Rooney’s much hyped move into midfield has seen the Manchester United veteran put in two assured performances, although he will undoubtedly be tested by better quality opposition, and the general shape of the team seems to be working, with fullbacks Walker and Rose offering a major attacking outlet. Three different goalscorers so far highlights England’s team ethic, and ball possession, a major weakness in previous tournaments, has been much improved. And of course, England have successfully navigated the Group stage, which is more than they achieved at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. So far so good.
But there are also negatives which will prevent England’s management, players and supporters getting too carried away. The form of Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane has been disappointing, Joe Hart has shown worrying lapses in goal, not least in letting Gareth Bale’s freekick squirm through his grasp, and doubts remain as to whether Hodgson indeed knows his best team. But perhaps we are splitting hairs. For any self-doubt which has permeated England sides in past tournaments, for the moment, seems to have been set aside, and that will please Hodgson and England followers the most. This young England seem to have banished the fear for now.
“We’re full of confidence and can’t wait for Monday.”
— England (@England) June 16, 2016
Next up for Hodgson and his men are Slovakia, and Marek Hamsik, in Saint-Etienne on Monday night. The Slovakians were impressive in their defeat of Russia on Wednesday, and were a little unlucky in losing against Wales in the first round of games, but three points on the board means a very realistic chance of qualifying for the knockout phase, either in one of the top two places, or as a best third place finisher (four third placed teams will ultimately qualify). The Slovakians will be far from a pushover, yet a draw for England, coupled with anything other than a Welsh win against Russia in Toulouse, will see the English top Group F, and face the best third-placed finisher from either Groups A, C or D. If England draw and Wales win, England will finish second, and play the Runner Up from Group F. Slovakia and Wales wins would mean England would go on to play either the winner of Group C or D (potentially Germany or Spain).
Odds to Win Euro 2016
Odds courtesy of Bet365 and correct as of 00.00 GMT on 17/06/16
By: Steven Paget