Posts Tagged ‘england’
For many reasons, it’s been a while since I’ve had either the time or motivation to blog, so as I aim to get La Rambler moving again, perhaps a look at the recently concluded European Championships would be a good place to start.
I didn’t have the opportunity to watch too many games in full, especially in the earlier rounds of group games, but Euro 2012 certainly gave us our fair share of surprises – albeit without any massive shocks – in a tournament which was enjoyable without ever looking likely to be remembered as a classic.
For the third time, the European Championships were hosted jointly. And for the second successive competition, both of the host nations were dumped out at the group stage. Also knocked out were Holland who, along with Ireland, were one of two sides to go home without picking up a single point.
Holland may have been the biggest first round casualty had it not been for Russia’s defeat to Greece in their last group match, which highlighted one of UEFA’s more ridiculous ways of trying to encourage attacking football.
Greece went into the game three points behind Russia and with an inferior goal difference, but knew that they needed simply to beat Russia in order to move above them on the head-to-head ruling, used as the deciding factor between teams on the same number of points, regardless of goal difference. With a 1-0 lead there was no need for Greece to score again, even though Russia still had a better goal difference.
In group C, which included Italy, Spain and Croatia, a situation unfolded during the last group game in which Italy led the group despite having the same number of points as Spain and Croatia, and a lesser goal difference than both. When taking into account that, at that stage of the evening, the games between the three teams had resulted in a draw – or were on course to do so – it seemed ridiculous to think that goals scored in draws between three teams on the same points should be used instead of overall goal difference.
Fortunately, Spain secured a late winner against Croatia and the group was settled on points alone, with Spain taking top spot.
England were amongst the other group winners, and despite a squad lacking a number of experienced international players, went on to record their best performance on foreign soil since 1968 – when the tournament included just four teams.
Not until Portugal in 2004 did England progress beyond the group phase in a competition hosted overseas and when bearing in mind some of the failings of the England national team over the previous ten European Championships – four of which England failed even to qualify – it was little surprise that topping a group consisting of France, Sweden and Ukraine earned Roy Hodgson and his team so many plaudits.
Optimism was high amongst England fans ahead of a quarter-final showdown with Italy, and although hindsight can be used to suggest that a certain degree of that optimism was misplaced following Italy’s dominant display in a match they should have won long before penalty kicks, it is worth noting that Italy’s own performances in the group stage – none of which were overly convincing – were a big factor behind English expectation.
Their ultimate loss to Italy simply resulted in hype being directed elsewhere by the British media.
And from not even being considered as serious trophy contenders before the quarter-final stage, Italy became the new media favourites and found themselves going into the final against Spain just a week later with a number of analysts in the British media almost regarding them as competition favourites. Such a view was based largely on an impressive, albeit overrated, victory over Germany in the semi finals – a match in which a catalogue of Italian defensive blunders in the opening quarter-hour of the match could have seen the Germans with a convincing early lead.
In addition, Mario Balotelli, the talented but temperamental character leading the Italian strikeforce, was hyped to the point that a career of ups, downs and controversies was seemingly overshadowed by a fine performance in the semi final in which he scored twice on an all too rare occasion in which Balotelli’s contribution to his team in a decisive match was entirely positive.
Spain won’t have cared much for the hype and perhaps were more concerned with criticism they were receiving for their style of play. Either way, despite the over-excited hype towards the Italians, normal service was resumed in the final and Spain proved once and for all that they remain the best national team in the world.
It may not go down as the best European Championship event of all time, but Spain’s achievement in securing a third straight major tournament win will at least ensure that Euro 2012 has a little place in football history.
The appointment of Roy Hodgson as England’s new manager has attracted plenty of negative reaction.
Some of the disappointment is simply from those who wanted – indeed, expected – Harry Redknapp to be appointed to the role but even amongst those who aren’t particular fans of Redknapp, there’s been a distinct lack of enthusiasm at seeing a man appointed England manager without having ever won a major trophy in English football.
Before even looking at whether or not Roy Hodgson was right to be considered for the role, it’s important to look at the team he’s actually going to manage.
Since winning the World Cup on home soil in 1966, the record of the England national team at major finals has been largely unimpressive.
Semi final losses at Italia 90 and Euro 96 represent the closest that England have come to lifting a second piece of major silverware despite the efforts by some of England’s most popular managers to change that, as well as leading names brought in from overseas.
Glenn Hoddle reached the second round of his one and only tournament in charge of England while his popular successor, Kevin Keegan, failed to lead England out of the group stage of Euro 2000 and a win over an equally poor German side was scant consolation for a thoroughly disappointing campaign in Holland and Belgium.
Sven Goran Eriksson, the first man from overseas to take charge of England, brought with him a wave of optimism following some impressive results during the early stages of his five years in charge. The fact that such results – including the 5-1 win in Germany – were achieved by playing good football only led to increased expectations, although that all fizzled out as tournament after tournament ended in quarter-final elimination.
At least the team had qualified for finals under Eriksson. Steve McClaren’s disastrous spell in charge of England’s involved nothing more than an unsuccessful bid to reach Euro 2008.
McClaren had been one of two or three English managers considered for the job before being appointed on the back of solid year at Middlesbrough and after bringing his 18-month tenure to a sudden end, the FA were quick to replace a relatively inexperienced English manager with a multiple title-winning Italian in their attempts to revive the nation’s footballing fortunes.
That didn’t work too well, either.
For all of the wins in qualifying or friendly matches, Fabio Capello’s sole tournament during his four years in the job saw England struggle to get out of a group containing Slovenia, USA and Algeria. A 1-0 win over Slovenia in the final group game was enough to ensure that England would leapfrog their fellow Europeans into second place and scrape through to the second round – where they were subsequently thumped 4-1 by Germany and put out of their World Cup misery.
So, whilst many sections of the country may find it difficult to get overly excited at seeing Roy Hodgson leading England, it’s fair to say that each person to have had the job before him have failed to get the most out of the highly talented group of players available for selection.
Hodgson doesn’t have quite the luxury of so many top class players, and some of the experienced players still involved are unlikely to be playing international football for too much longer.
However, one thing which should go in his favour is that the outgoing West Brom manager does have the benefit of experience coaching at international level.
In 1992, Switzerland went into the qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup as one of the fourth group of seeds, ranked alongside Wales and Northern Ireland. But Hodgson’s team finished runners-up to Italy in the qualifying group and at the expense of both Portugal and Scotland, the Swiss went on to qualify for the finals in America, a tournament which England had failed to reach.
USA ’94 was Switzerland’s first major tournament qualification since 1966, and marked only the second time that Switzerland had progress beyond the first round – the only precedent being a quarter-final appearance in the 1954 Swiss hosted World Cup.
Within 18 months, Switzerland’s World Cup appearance was followed up with a successful qualification for Euro 96 during which Hodgson’s side easily topped a group containing Turkey and 1994 World Cup semi-finalists Sweden.
It was to be the first time in ten attempts that Switzerland’s had reached the finals of the European Championships but Hodgson resigned as soon as the qualification campaign ended in order to manage Inter Milan.
His other international experience came with a spell in charge of Finland who he almost took to the finals of Euro 2008. Despite being amongst the fifth seeds in a group of seven, only three points separated Finland from their first ever appearance at the finals of any major competition.
Roy Hodgson might not have the charm of someone like Harry Redknapp, nor a collection of silverware to rival that of Fabio Cappello. But despite some of the lower moments in his career which many English fans focus on, there have been too many successes in Hodgson’s career to ignore and for which he deserves respect.
Much of the success has been by over-achieving with clubs and national teams who have only modest expectations but with the expectation of the English national team seemingly at its lowest point since the early 1990′s, Hodgson could yet win over many of the doubters.
Men who have been more popular and more decorated have failed to deliver. Now it’s Hodgson’s turn, and every fan in the country should give him the chance he deserves.