England have now qualified for Euro 2016 following their inevitable demolition of San Marino. Roy Hodgson’s side won 6-0 in Serravalle to continue their perfect record in qualifying for next year’s tournament.
As I talked about in yesterday’s article England usually enjoy comfortable qualification campaigns for major tournaments.
The Three Lions are usually in groups with a group of minnows and a few mid-level European nations thrown in.
The fact that England boss Roy Hodgson has gone 17 qualification games without defeat shows that the qualification campaigns have been relatively straight forward.
Despite the perfect record in qualifying, doubts still seem to remain about this England team’s chances of enjoying a successful tournament in France. The main doubt is the fact that Hodgson, despite all his coaching experience, is not very tactically astute.
He talks a good game sometimes, but when England come up against any decent team they struggle to beat them. This is where tactics come into play. Hodgson is characterised as a solid, rather than forward thinking coach.
He is the safe pair of hands that the English FA chose to take England forward. However, few English fans would say that the team has moved forward since last year’s World Cup debacle.
For all the claims that English players are over-rated, the Three Lions do have some very talented young players in their ranks. They do get over-hyped at times, but nevertheless they have talent.
England has in their squad the likes of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Ross Barkley and John Stones. These players would arguably get into most international squads, but to get the most out of their talent they need to be managed correctly.
At club level these players have been impressive in recent seasons and now that form needs to be transferred to the international stage. Against San Marino, Barkley and Kane scored, while Stones kept a clean sheet against very modest opposition.
Barkley seems to have something special, that touch of stardust. Often compared to former-England midfielder Paul Gascoigne, the youngster is just attempting to find his best position.
At club level he is currently playing as a number ten and has started the campaign in decent form. Last season though, Barkley produced a few good displays playing in the centre of midfield and driving at defences.
If Hodgson can harness Barkley’s talent and that of his fellow youngsters England should be able to compete at the top level and not have an inferiority complex against fellow European heavyweights.
The biggest concern for England at the moment may be in the centre of defence. Stones partnered club-mate Phil Jagielka at the heart of the backline in San Marino and enjoyed a decent game against poor opposition.
England does currently have a dearth of top-quality centre-backs available to them. Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka had previously been the first choice partnership, but that pairing was broken up after last year’s World Cup.
Manchester United’s Chris Smalling has made a relatively impressive start to the Premier League campaign and a partnership with Everton star John Stones could be the future. Smalling and Stones may just be the right mix of brains and brawn for the Three Lions.
Neither Cahill, nor Jagielka have ever looked like convincing centre-backs at the top level. Both are decent players, but neither is world-class. At 33, Jagielka is also aging and his young teammate Stones may just have the edge on him to start in future England internationals.
There is no doubt that England have underachieved at major international tournaments in the past. The big players just have not turned-up and the Three Lions have been tamed by some mediocre hunters.
Many England bosses have failed to produce at big tournaments in the past, but last time out in Brazil was probably the worst England failure of recent years.
England needs to overcome a psychological barrier that seems to make their top players freeze at vital times in tournaments. A good manager can lead, inspire and give players the confidence to win trophies.
Unfortunately I do not believe that Roy Hodgson can give those England players that belief that they be successful at a major tournament. I really hope I am wrong, but I am expecting the Three Lions to again underachieve in France and come home with their tails between their legs.
Can Roy Hodgson get the best out of English talent?