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Can England’s Fate Take Them Through The Championship Gate?

June 23, 2016

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Over the years there have been several reasons that have led to the inevitable downfall of England football team in the big tournaments. They always seem to come up with a decent unit comprising exciting individuals, enter the tournament like true lions and mount the expectation levels sky high. But as soon as the curtain of the grand stage unfolds, it all seems like the old wine in a new bottle. Despite having prolific scorers in the squad their battle for supremacy has suffered in many ways due to the backfiring of forward line.

The ongoing Euro Cup has also witnessed a similar kind of phenomenon. However at the same time we have seen the positives too. Yes, finishing second behind Wales at the end of the group stage is a disappointment indeed for a team that has pulled off a clean sweep of 10 on 10 victories in the qualifier campaign, something which not many teams have done before. But somewhere beyond those missed opportunities and fizzled out attacks at the final third there have been something to be hopeful about; of course it might not be enough to be proud of but certainly the signs of better things to come.

What we witnessed in England’s game against Slovakia was an exhibition of complete domination without a lucky break. Even in their opener against Russia and in the following fixture against Wales they went close to score on a numerous occasions. Goals might be the prime thing the fans want to see from their team, but there are certain things that one needs to do in a right manner for finding their roadway to score goals. The latter thing is what I feel the Three Lions have done a way better in many counts compared to their outings of past. Unlike the former managers Roy Hodgson has opted to go aggressive. We haven’t seen England to get into an unnecessary defensive shell like they did before. We haven’t seen much of those towering long balls either. The passing, build-up play and controlling the possession as well as the tempo have been a revolutionary aspect of this side. They have looked composed in the midfield and dangerous on the break. Even they have been able to keep the things calm at the back, something which not many would have expected to happen. But when after getting so many prerequisites right you are not getting the right reward then it becomes a problem. However it doesn’t mean that these problems can’t be solved; but the longer it goes on, the more it will frustrate the team.

When it comes to the selection of the first XI, England do have a problem. Whether say it healthy or unhealthy, it’s the problem of plenty. One can’t really blame Hodgson’s tactics of making six changes to the team that defeated Wales. Another day when their team will take may be an opportunity or two (amongst the countless that were created) which wins it for them, the fans will proudly claim their team as one of the strongest teams in terms of bench strength. On the other hand, as the substitutions see them handing over their top spot of the group, there is every reason for opposing the shuffles made since the earlier set of players were also creating so many chances. Having said that these are the things that keep happening around when a big team stumbles and they need to get these out of their way; there are some issues for the Three Lions boss to look into ahead of the knockout stage.

First and foremost, it needs to be made sure that they have right man at the right place. England’s link up has been sensational so far, but the finishing hasn’t been of quality. The likes of Lallana and Sterling might have pace, Alli might have skills but finishing is quite an art which they are still searching to find. That’s where Wayne Rooney’s ability remains an unmatched one and that’s why he’s the all time top scorer for his nation. So when your best finisher is busy with providing the balls for his teammates whom would you expect to break the deadlock? I firmly believe that the skipper should get into advancing positions more often so that he gets more balls to aim at goal.

Though I want to see Rooney on a more attacking role, at the same time one must not forget that what he has done so far in this tournament playing behind the two strikers has been highly commendable. So someone got to take that additional responsibility of distribution in the midfield. England have an abundance of players at the half, but not all of them are all purpose midfielders. However if someone can do this job for them it has to be Jack Wilshere. The man from Arsenal might have injury concerns, he might have disciplinary issues; but when he clicks, he is the best midfielder England have.

Another noticeable thing is that England have been wasting so many corners and free kicks. They are considered to be amongst the sides who pose high threat on dead ball situations, but this Euro hasn’t seen anything like that. Except that one thumping Eric Dier strike against Russia they have been very ordinary in this department. In the first two games we saw quite a few corners from Harry Kane which were poorly taken and free kicks that went floating up and over. So the team needs to find the right person who can deliver the goods in this regard. Kane is superb at dragging the grounders past the outstretched arms of goalkeepers but I don’t think that taking quality corners is his cup of tea. He would rather stand a good chance being inside the box to meet those high aerial balls from corners where he can use his height and physical strength to a good effect.

Like I said, despite having the concerns to be worried about England also have showcased a lot of spark to take the positives from. They have never dominated games as much as they are doing this time around. While performing together as a unit had been a longstanding matter of concern, this team seems to have well gelled. It is just that they are being held by the sides that are more defensive than attacking. I would fancy this English side to be up against a quality attacking side, which of course one will have to come across if they are to fetch the utmost outcome. As it stands, we might just look forward to something very similar; and if Hodgson’s young brigade has saved its best for the hardest of times, who knows, it may well be a blessing in disguise for the three lions.

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