England have announced the appointment of Roy Hodgson as their new national manager, who will be charged with leading an expectant Three Lions fanbase into Euro 2012. With less than six weeks to the start of the tournament, the West Brom supremo must get his squad selection and preparation right if England are to compete against some of the world’s leading nations, and for the team to have a successful competition (get the latest Euro 2012 odds here).
Bookies have England as fourth favourites for the event in Ukraine and Poland, with the best odds available 13.00 for Hodgson to lead the nation to glory. Holders Spain remain the frontrunners, with Germany and Netherlands in close contention, and France, Portugal and Russia slightly longer shots than the home nation.
Hodgson was open and honest in his unveiling on Tuesday, admitting that he was potentially not the fans’ first-choice, after the FA opted for him over popular Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp. His installation will have done little to inspire the nation’s followers with confidence, especially when names such as Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho have been touted in the press as possible candidates.
Hodgson does bring a pragmatic approach, with a raft of former players coming out in support of the new boss. The coach has been praised for his man-management skills and careful tactical consideration, whilst he has experience of international management and solid knowledge of the Premier League.
Given the short shrift handed out to Steve McClaren, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and many others in the past by the fans, Hodgson was also quick to ask the nation’s supporters to bare with him, give him time and consider a long-term strategy to win an international tournament. However, football fans have short memories and can be unforgiving; Hodgson’s popularity and backing by those that follow England will be determined by the country’s performance this summer.
Looking at the draw, Hodgson and England have been handed a tricky group, but should expect qualification through to the knockout rounds as a minimum. France will provide a tough opener, before Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden test the English backline. Finally, a decider against co-hosts Ukraine will determine the nation’s group finish in what will be a hostile Donbass Arena.
England will be confident of progression; Hodgson stated at his press conference that the nation should enter every international competition ‘expecting nothing less than to win the tournament’. However, to reach the closing stages of the event, winning Group D may well be necessary, as the runners up will face the winners of Group C, most likely Spain. To lift the crown Vicente del Bosque’s men will probably have to be negotiated at some point, but Hodgson and the England fans would prefer this to be in a final rather than quarter-final.
The final point from Hodgson’s press conference was the news that he will not pick his squad until after the Premier League campaign has finished. The 64-year-old has a number of big calls to make, and must get the blend and personnel of the contingent right to start the competition well.
With John Terry facing racism accusations from Anton Ferdinand, it remains to be seen if the former skipper and the victim’s brother Rio can cohabit in the squad. Darren Bent’s injury will have to be assessed, whilst there is limited space for promising potential match-winners Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck; Hodgson must decide who to take and who he can do without.
An understated choice, Hodgson keeps expectancy in check and may well provide a surprise or two as national selector. As ever, team and squad selection will have to be on the money for the manager to get the fans on board and compete with the likes of Spain and Germany.