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Russian Embassy trolls England

Toe Poke

Euro 2012 Tactics - England

The Coach - Roy Hodgson

After months of speculation, Harry Redknapp did not receive his anticipated coronation from the Football Association, with the panel picking the next England head coach naming Hodgson as successor to Fabio Capello a little over a month before the start of Euro 2012. He is more than qualified to try his luck in the position, as Hodgson has worked on the international stage with Switzerland, UAE and Finland, taken charge of Inter Milan on two occasions and boasts a reputation as one of the most astute coaches in the game. However, the 'Harry for England' campaigners have expressed some frustration that their man did not get the job and have been quick to suggest Hodgson's disappointing spell in charge at Liverpool last year is evidence that he will not handle this job.

Meanwhile, the tabloid media in England wasted little time running crude front page headlines making fun of this 64-year-old's speech impediment. Thus is the gauntlet you are expected to run when accepting this unforgiving positing. Many a big name have tried and failed to crack the highly paid England position recent years, yet at least Hodgson heads into his first major tournament in the role with expectations surrounding his team at an all-time low.

The Captain - Steven Gerrard

Hodgson wasted little time in confirming Gerrard as his leader, though there he may be seeking another man for the post after this tournament as the Liverpool talisman has hinted that he may not continue his international career beyond Euro 2012. Injuries have become an increasingly persistent feature of the Gerrard story in recent years and it is little wonder, as he has just finished his 14th season as a Liverpool first-team stalwart, with the workload he has taken on in his career taking its toll. Liverpool's remarkable 2005 Champions League triumph will be the defining memory of his career, yet many an expert have suggested he deserves to be remembered as the club's greatest player of all-time. "I'd have it as Gerrard as No.1 and Kenny Dalglish as a close second in the list of Liverpool legends," claims Anfield great John Aldridge. Gerrard's international career has been a mix of the ordinary and the desperately disappointing and while he is one of the few players who have shone in England colours in the last decade, he has not come close to success in a major tournament. If this is to be his final crack at glory, he will want to go out with a bang.

The Formation

Hodgson tends to lean heavily on two wide men to give him side some attacking impetus, with a 4-3-3 formation likely to be good news for Manchester United's Ashley Young, Liverpool's Stewart Downing and Arsenal duo Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Taking four wingers in the squad certainly suggested he was intending to use width in his team. The absence of the suspended Wayne Rooney for the opening two games of Euro 2012 appears to have opened the door to Andy Carroll to claim a starting spot after his end-of-season return to form with Liverpool, with Manchester United's Danny Welbeck his chief rival for the role. Hodgson will need to decide whether he can start with the tried and failed pairing of Gerrard and Chelsea hero Frank Lampard in the heart of his midfield. With Tottenham's Scott Parker certain to start, Gareth Barry or James Milner may be preferred alongside him, though Lampard proved he could do a decent job as a deep-lying midfielder in this season's Champions League Final against Bayern Munich. At the back, Hodgson has already made his big call by picking controversial Chelsea skipper John Terry ahead of Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand (causing his first media storm in the process), with his club colleague Gary Cahill a likely centre-back partner.

The Weak Spot

While every other Euro 2012 nation has spent the last two years preparing meticulously for this tournament, England's plans under new boss Hodgson kicked into top gear less than a month before the competition got underway. Fabio Capello's messy departure in February ensured chaos has reigned for this national team in the months since and it leaves all concerned in a state of flux. Hodgson's 'safe pair of hands' reputation may help to smooth over some of the cracks in the England make-up, but their ludicrous decision to retain their Polish base when their group matches are being played in Ukraine is a hangover of the Capello regime that looks certain to disrupt their plans. No other team face such lengthy plane journeys to play their group matches and it adds up to an organisational mess.

Injury Nightmare

If Carroll and Welbeck were to pick up a knock or suffer suspension in the opening two games of the Euro 2012, the back-up options are bare. Tottenham's Jermain Defoe is not up to leading the line alone, so it would leave Hodgson employing Young, Gerrard or Walcott in attacking positions before Rooney can return to save the day. There is a gulf in class between first and second choice keepers, with Manchester City's Joe Hart impossible to replace. West Ham's Robert Green fluffed his lines at the 2010 World Cup finals and England will not want to rely on him once again.

The Young Gun - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The inclusion of the 18-year-old after just 16 Premier League game in Arsenal red was proof that Hodgson sees him as wildcard who can make an impact at Euro 2012 on current form, he may be a better bet to make a splash this summer than persistently inconsistent club team-mate Walcott. The former Southampton graduate boasts an effervescence that has quickly won him a place in the hearts of Gunners fans and his carefree approach to the game may be just what England require. Tottenham's Aaron Lennon would have been a more experienced pick for coach Hodgson, so he sees the son of former England international Mark Chamberlain as one for the present as well as the future.

What They Say

The Verdict - There is too much uncertainty surrounding England to predict their fate, so anything beyond the quarter-finals should be hailed as a major triumph for Hodgson.



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