England went to the Euros with little to no expectations of them achieving anything, which seemingly had a positive impact on the results. Two wins and a draw in the group stage set up England nicely for the quarter-finals, although probably too much was made of them scraping past Sweden and Ukraine.
Ahead of England’s game against Italy, Alan Hansen claimed Roy Hodgson was “on the verge of greatness”, complying with the typically substandard punditry that came with the Euros. After two hours of football, where England somehow managed to keep the Italians out, they predictably lost on penalties. All the talk of how well practised they were and all the fuss surrounding Joe Hart’s iPad preparation came to nothing.
However, when Italy went on to convincingly beat former favourites Germany in the semi-finals, suddenly England’s result against them looked pretty good!
Henry Winter, football correspondent for The Telegraph, has given his thoughts on England’s performance at Euro 2012 exclusively for BFTGT.
“In terms of finish, I always consider quarter-final as par for England,” said Winter. “England aren’t great, and always struggle against technically more accomplished players. In terms of performance, the poor approach to penalties and possession continued and was disappointing but not surprising. The culture of English football is deeply flawed.”
Ahead of the Euros, much of the focus was on Hodgson’s decision to include John Terry in the squad and leave Rio Ferdinand out. The FA decided to strip Terry of the captaincy after he was charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand but didn’t prevent him from being selected. Hodgson claimed the decision to leave Anton’s brother behind was purely down to “footballing reasons”, which seemed slightly improbable given what a great season he had just enjoyed for the team that were pipped to the title on goal difference alone. “Footballing reasons” then became a ridiculous attempt at justification for Rio’s absence when Gary Cahill was ruled out through injury and Liverpool’s Martin Kelly was called up in his place.
Terry had a decent tournament, even if too much praise was given to him being out of position to allow the Ukraine to score before tracking back and not clearing the ball before it crossed the line. “Heroic” was the description from the commentator, with replays showing that Ukraine should have drawn level. For Winter, he was the best performer.
“John Terry maintained a consistency of performance over the four games that none others matched,” said Winter. “A nod to Danny Welbeck too, who impressed on and off the pitch.”
Danny Welbeck scored one of the goals of the tournament, with his excellent late goal against Sweden sealing the three points for England. It was a goal that most England fans wouldn’t have expected Welbeck to have in his tool box, although the biggest surprise of the tournament for Winter was yesterday’s runners up, Italy.
“I totally under-estimated them,” he said. “I looked at the defence and thought teams would get at them. Pirlo was exceptional.”
With the Euros over, our next football fix is on offer at the London Olympics, with the first matches being played in three weeks from now. Unlike previous years, Great Britain will have a team competing for a medal. Do they stand a chance?
“Latin American and African nations take it far more seriously,” Winter said. “It’s a weird competition for an English football fan. An amalgam of the four Home Nations for a start and the Over-aged player lark is just strange. I’m covering it but I understand many people’s indifference.”
On the day of the closing ceremony for the Olympic games, the football season kicks off again, with English champions Manchester City playing European champions Chelsea in the Community Shield. Who will go on to win the league this season?
“Manchester City,” Winter reckons. “Strength in depth.”