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England united ahead of France opener

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Phil McNulty | 19:34 UK time, Sunday, 10 June 2012

The verbal hand grenade tossed between England manager Roy Hodgson and captain Steven Gerrard was still causing vibrations as they started their final training session in the giant bowl of Donetsk's Donbass Arena.

Like someone arriving at a party fashionably late and with every intention of spoiling the buoyant mood, a member of the French media shattered the relative calm by openly questioning England's right to be called a great football nation.

If it was designed to provoke a reaction and lace England's opening Euro 2012 meeting with France in Ukraine on Monday with added spice the ploy worked - whether it worked in a good way remains to be seen.

There is a quiet confidence about Hodgson's new England and it was not dented by this abrupt, and presumably unwanted, intrusion into their plan to present a fresh footballing face to the watching world in steamy Donetsk on Monday evening.

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As Hodgson and Gerrard left the main media theatre and retired to a packed anteroom the subject was swiftly revisited and was clear it was not well received, particularly by the Liverpool captain.

Hodgson, with diplomatic skills honed during years of experience, accepted the question's validity after 46 years without the sniff of a major trophy since the 1966 World Cup win.

He said: "It was a facetious question, not what you would call spiteful, but I suppose there was an element of truth in what he was saying."

Gerrard's response was a visible hardening of expression, a narrowing of the eyes and a further furrowing of the brow. He will remember the face of his inquisitor should England start Euro 2012 with a win against Laurent Blanc's side.

"Questions about whether we can beat the top teams are more of a motivation," said Gerrard. "I've got belief in my team-mates. I see it in training, I see it week-in week-out in the Premier League. We have underperformed and not delivered in major tournaments before and I can take that criticism.

"For me it is a motivation. I think once we will click and we will get an a bit of luck and prove an awful lot of people wrong, not just in this country and around the world - but people like that fella there who was sitting at the back.

"The players want to put some of the accusations that have been aimed at this squad right."

Gerrard's appointment as captain, a deserved return of the armband, means he does not require added motives to win Hodgson's first competitive game - but to question England's status as a European football superpower clearly burned on to his psyche.

This is part of the armoury England will take into the imposing stadium here in Donetsk, where tempatures are expected to hit a high of the mid-30s on Monday - a sharp change in climate from cool Krakow that had defender Joleon Lescott tweeting that it was "no joke."

Hodgson has had the introductions with the friendly wins against Norway and Belgium. Now the serious business starts with England unburdened by great expectations but setting their own goals for achievement at Euro 2012.

England's 64-year-old manager, now familiar with the phrase "40 days and 40 nights" as it encompassed his period of preparation, was in relaxed mood as he approached a game he regards as the pinnacle of his lengthy career.

He broke away from the main group of England's squad as they went through a 15-minute open training session, walking to the sidelines to exchange greetings with familiar media faces.

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As Hodgson talked the influence of new backroom staff Ray Lewington and Gary Neville was not merely visible but audible - his former assistant at Fulham already appearing to be a particularly strong and vocal influence on the training ground.

Only time will tell, but early impressions suggest Hodgson has already forged a tight-knit group able to ignore the outside influences of the continuing debate about Rio Ferdinand's non-selection. The focus was firmly on those here in Ukraine, not absent friends.

Gerrard is particularly impressed with the new regime. He said: "We're living together out here. You can get lots of messages across in the team meetings. The manager, Ray Lewington and Gary Neville have been superb. The videos we have had have been very clear, especially involving the French, so no player is going into this game unprepared."

Hodgson admits time has been of the essence in the intense period since he succeeded Fabio Capello at the start of May but he suggested his early work has given him a pleasant surprise.

"It has been a short period of time," he said, "but I'm really quite surprised that I'm as confident of what the players are going to show you and show the nation and do for the nation as I can possibly be. I can't say more than that."

And so, as he prepares for his competitive debut as England manager, the game that will help crystallise those early positive thoughts he has about his squad, what will his message be to the men he sends out to represent an expectant nation watching 1,700 miles away?

He said: "We have done the best preparation we can possibly do. I'll them 'I think you're ready. I think you're good enough. Now have the confidence and belief in yourself and get out there and show it and don't feel too down if it doesn't work out for you.'"
Hodgson eagerly awaits these first steps into a new era. As does England.

Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    France are favourites and I expect they will win tomorrow

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, I guess we can take this last opportunity to be positive before we take the field against France and spend most of the 90 minutes chasing shadows.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good to see Gerrard as captain. Can only hope Hodgson has told him the quit the stupid Hollywood passes that aren't needed at this level.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think a large part of our lack of success has been the English 'mould' of play we have, where physicality and work rate are the main features of our 'style'. But we have seen with the 'golden generation' players, most of whom were/are key club players, that they're many of them champions league winners or finalists, and definitely of a high class. With players like AOC, Wilshere etc. coming through there's also hope that denotes a long term trend for the future. There is more finesse emphasised in their playing styles. Obviously there are other important factors but that is arguably an essential failing of previous tournaments.

    Also, while I have the stage, does anyone else think all international friendlies/qualifiers should be played at the end of the season? We could end all the domestic leagues and European competitions earlier, and it would improve the standard of international teams as they'd have more time to gel.

  • Comment number 5.

    Heard it all before. Words are unimportant, performances are what's needed to silence those sorts of questions.

  • Comment number 6.

    Come on England!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    I think it depends entirely on the context of the question.

    If the French Journalist is referring solely to International football then he has every right to ask that question. We have have flattered to deceive for many years whereas France have had some major success in the last 15 years.

    However, whether the question is relating to English football as a whole then it may be worth pointing out that in the last seven years, the "perceived top 4 of Engish football" in United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have all contested Champions League finals.

    Something the French club teams haven't not remotely close to recently. Were Monaco the last to get there in 04?

    English football has a lot to be proud of.

  • Comment number 8.

    Looking forward to the game on Monday evening - it sounds as if there is a bit more passion brewing this time round so I hope the players 'play proud'. As long as the players want it, we should do well - the French have proven in the past that they don't cope well with an early set-back so hopefully we'll nick an early goal and have them arguing amongst each other before half time.

    Should be a good tussle on the way to SG lifting the trophy in a couple or so weeks time. We can then let the Associated Press guy ask the first question in the post match interview.

  • Comment number 9.

    the French have proven in the past that they don't cope well with an early set-back so hopefully we'll nick an early goal and have them arguing amongst each other before half time.

    ----------------------------------------------------------

    I hope that turns out to be true but you might want to watch the last game in that video.

  • Comment number 10.

    The first two paragraphs of this article are total hyperbole. Nothing was shattered and no hand grenades of any kind were thrown. Grow up.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think we are the team on form, but I dont think we are the favourites. Winning friendlies and remaining unbeaten is certainly better than losing them but it does not have the same impact as competitive football. And in that matter we have not won a game in a tournament in last two events.
    Least experienced team of the euros I think we are on the right track, but this competition is too early for this team to reach its peak.
    We'll be a good team in two years.

    I'm not going to call tomorrow's game, but whatever happens I would still fancy both to probably get through

  • Comment number 12.

    I would have asked the journalist how France did at the last two tournaments. While we were not at Euro 2008 France managed to finish bottom of their group at that tournament and at the World Cup 2010 (each time with 1 point).

  • Comment number 13.

    England continue to remain undefeated.

  • Comment number 14.

    I would have asked the journalist how France did at the last two tournaments. While we were not at Euro 2008 France managed to finish bottom of their group at that tournament and at the World Cup 2010 (each time with 1 point).
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It was a valid question, he addressed the manager with Sir and was only journalist to thank him for his answer. This is really a non-story.
    And besides, we dont call ourselves a big footballing nation. we do not have a real football culture. And yes as you and I both pointed out our recent tournament results have been poor but no worst than England. Go back 20 years and the gap is rather big.

  • Comment number 15.

    The reality is we will be set up not to lose, the problem with this is if we concede a goal it is difficult to get back into the game, eg Portugal on Saturday....
    We need to gain confidence from the French game to take us forward in the tournament, I think we need to surprise the French by been more positive than they or anyone expects us to be...
    Still fear he may make one of the most incredible selection mistake's in English football history and pick Downing......Ox or Walcott with Milner....think the other's pick themselves now...

  • Comment number 16.

    11.
    At 23:46 10th Jun 2012, BleuBlancRouge wrote:


    I'm not going to call tomorrow's game, but whatever happens I would still fancy both to probably get through
    _______________________________________

    I would agree with that. If one team does win the match I can't see there being more than one goal in it - if pushed I would probably go for 1-1 draw.

  • Comment number 17.

    The important thing is that maybe with the new Hodgson set-up we can forget our delusions of becoming a continental-style passing side at least for the time being until we clear the old guard out, as they are, to a man, incapable of learning this style. His squad choices, aside from the a small core, have been awful (Downing, Defoe, Henderson) but maybe it'll be a team who's sum is greater than it's parts.

  • Comment number 18.

    Perhaps the idiot French journo should jump on Wikipedia and look at England's record against all teams going back to around 1885. Of the 90 opponents we have faced, there are only a couple of countries that have a superior win/loss record against us.

    Maybe he instead needs to ask whether France should be considered a great footballing nation? Losing to Belarus? Draws with Belgium, Romania and Bosnia? Knocked out in the first round in the 2002 and 2010 world cups?

    And for the record, we've won 16 times against France, compared to their 8 wins against us. Only Brazil, Italy and Uruguay have a better win/loss record against England in England's 897 games.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ 14 BleuBlancRouge

    In recent years the French have underperformed because of internal squad issues whereas England were not good enough in Euro 2008 qualifying and did as well as could be expected at the last World Cup.

  • Comment number 20.

    @ BaggiosPonytail

    sure, but regardless of the reasons, neither has covered itself with glory in last two tournaments.
    But I insist, as there some very annoyed people on this site, that we do not claim to be a big footballing nation, as stated by Blanc in his last press conference.
    England do see themselves as a big nation in football, so there is nothing wrong with a question being asked regarding this matter.

  • Comment number 21.

    Why so many negative comments?No.we may not win this competition but come on,the French are a bit like the Italians,score a goal against them and they drop their heads.From what I have seen so far,if our boys play to their best,they have nothing to fear from anyone.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hodgson looks like an extremely odd Thriller-era Michael Jackson impersonator with that jacket on...

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 18 Dizzee69

    Unfortunately for your argument in the last 14 years the French have won a World Cup, finished runners-up and won a European Championship whereas the best we have finished is at the quarter-final stage.

    They may have been awful at a couple of World Cups during that time but we haven't exactly been great either.

  • Comment number 24.

    Do I care if we lose? No. As long as the team looks proud to be representing our own country I will switch the TV off feeling as good as a football match can get me jolly well feeling! Come on England!

  • Comment number 25.

    I personally can't believe the French are that good. However that doesn't mean England can beat them.

  • Comment number 26.

    England's all-time record reads as follows: played 897, won 512, drew 216, lost 172, scored 2000, conceded 904. That means England are unbeaten 81% of the time.

    Only Brazil (who beat us 11/23 times), Italy (who beat us 9/22 times) and Uruguay (who beat us 4/10 times) have a superior win/loss record against us. We have a superior record against Germany (12 wins to their 11), France (16 wins to their 8), Argentina (6 wins to their 2), Spain (12 wins to their 8), and an identical record against Holland (5 wins each).

    Does that make us a great footballing nation? I think so.

    Tournaments are often decided by a bad-call from a ref, a missed penalty, a disallowed goal (we've had three of those since 1998) or a piece of luck. France v England at Euro 2004 showed that. Had Becks nailed his penalty, it's 2-0 England. But he missed, Zidane scored twice in injury time and it's 2-1 France). So even though we haven't won many tournaments, our 100+ year record cannot be argued with.

    And it isn't like we're being outclassed in tournaments. How many times have we gone out on penalties, which are a bit of a lottery? Even Messi and Ronaldo miss them!

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 20 BleuBlancRouge

    This is the problem though. We in England seem to have unrealistic expectations going into every tournament.

    Looking back at the tournaments since France '98 the match against Argentina is the only one where we perhaps should feel unlucky at losing. Since then every time we have been knocked out we have not been good enough to progress. At the last World Cup we were beaten by a very promising German team so no shame in that.

    Now going into this tournament a lot of people seem to be saying we are going to get thrashed by France, we can't make it out of the group etc. I personally don't see any reason why we can't progress to the quarter-final stage but after that we will need to play better than we have done in the last 14 years to beat (probably) either Spain or Italy.

  • Comment number 28.

    @23: They won a world cup at home (same as England), and home sides always over-achieve in tournaments (look at South Korea in 2002) and they won Euro 2004 after they should have lost to England in the first game.

    It took a missed penalty from David Beckham and two injury-time goals from Zidane to beat us. That hardly makes them a class above us.

    And although the BBC are talking up their "unbeaten in 14 games" record, they had 3 very poor draws against lesser opposition (Belgium, Romania and Bosnia).

    Either side could win, but I certainly don't fear the French. Any side who can lose to Belarus and fail to beat Bosnia and Belgium at home can be beaten by England.

  • Comment number 29.

    @ 28 Dizzee69

    They didn't win Euro 2004 - Greece did.

  • Comment number 30.

    No 18....Do you really think we a great footballing nation? clearly we have dropped well behind at least 7 or 8 nations technically and tactically....the last 2 tournaments last 16 and DNQ, Sven's 1/4 finals seem to be a good achievements against what has come after.
    We are clearly a 1/4 final side at the best and the sooner we realise it the better, to go back to 1885 is quite ridiculous, other sides have developed over the last 20/30 years, we have stood still, even gone backwards...

  • Comment number 31.

    England can't score many, it's well known, even with Rooney in team. My worry, however, is that England will have to do it without complete Chelsea back three of JT, Cahill (missing link) and A.Cole and without Lampard. Only they know how to deal with creative and pacy Spain or width-loving Germany and Holland. Hopefully, Joe Hart can bail out, he's the world best goalkeeper IMO. I think Welbeck and Young will shine in front and, on their day, can rip up any defense

  • Comment number 32.

    @ 27: I sincerely believe that we were the second-best side at the 2002 world cup, and it took a fluke goal from the eventual winners to knock us out. Germany made the final by way of only having to beat Paraguay, USA and South Korea in the knock-out stages, and were outclassed 2-0 in the final. And we had beaten Germany 5-1 in qualifying. So they certainly weren't the second-best side.

    And I don't think we were that bad in Euro 2004 either. We went out thanks to a 2-2 draw and penalty shoot-out, and that was after we had yet another goal disallowed (along with Campbell's effort in 1998 and Lampard in 2010).

    I simply don't believe we're that bad. We're just unlucky.

    If we went out in every competition at the first hurdle, and lost games 2-0, 3-0 and 4-0, then fair enough. But we are doing enough to win games. We're just not getting the breaks. Lampard's disallowed goal was a prime example. Even Sepp Blatter apologised!

  • Comment number 33.

    @30: technique and tactics doesn't win games. Goals do. If you want points for technique, watch gymnastics.

    I'm happy to watch England play their own style if it means winning. Just like the England rugby team did in 2003. They were accused of being negative and boring and not scoring many tries. And they won the world cup.

    And see my comments above re 2002 world cup. We were MUCH better than a 1/4 side that year. We were just unluky to meet Bazil so early whilst the likes of South Korea, Turkey and Germany had much easier draws.

    IMO you do not deserve to be in the world cup final if you only have to beat Paraguay, the USA and South Korea, and you lost a match 5-1 in qualifying. We were clearly better than 3/4 of those semi-finalists that year.

  • Comment number 34.

    France will be too good for us, I fancy the French to win the the trophy. I think Hodgson is the right manager for the job but the players we have right now are going to struggle to get out of the group. It's just where we are at the moment.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 32 Dizzee69

    You could argue that one or perhaps two defeats on penalties is the down to the luck of the draw. Unfortunately since the World Cup in 1990 we have lost on penalties on 5 occasions. Against Germany at the last World Cup we would have lost anyway, regardless of Lampard's disallowed goal.

  • Comment number 36.

    and other teams have also suffered controversial defeats and penalty losses. Should I remain you of our recent exits??

  • Comment number 37.

    ^ response to 32

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 33 Dizzee69

    In 2002 if we had finished top of our group we would have faced Senegal in the last 16 followed by Turkey in the Quarter-Final. We would have met Brazil in the Semi-Final instead. Germany had the easier side of the draw in that tournament but that happens.

    At the World Cup in 1990 we beat Belgium in the last 16 and Cameroon in the Quarter-Final so you could say we had an easy passage to the Semi-Final against West Germany that year.

  • Comment number 39.

    @29 - corrected. I'm mixing up 2000 with 2004.

    But now you've brought up 2000, that's a great example of the way we talk up other teams whilst slagging off England. Granted, we probably were rubbish at Euro 2000. We lost to Romania. But remember how great Portugal and Figo was? Remember how they outclassed us to win 3-2? Only everyone missed the whopping great deflection Figo's shot took off Tony Adam's heel and that another of their goals went in off the post. It's probably on You Tube somewhere.

    That's what I mean when I say we're unlucky and that we're doing enough to win games, we're just not getting the breaks.

    By all means, let's agree to disagree, and when England start losing games 3-0 and 4-0, I'll agree with you. But I'm going to predict with some confidence that even if France have 19 shots on goal, 78% possession and string 600 passes together tomorrow, the game will be won by a single goal, and there will be some degree of good or bad luck involved, or a dodgy call from a ref. There will be that little between the two teams. There will be no "gulf in class".

  • Comment number 40.

    In my view it was a pertinent question to be asked, ideally it would have been asked by an English journalist and then we wouldn't have this jingoistic backlash against the French.

    Let's hope it is a good game tomorrow with the best side-winning, no diving, cheating or histrionics from either side. Good luck to Roy Hodgson et al on their first competitive game.

  • Comment number 41.

    No 33...If you look closely at that 2002 World cup it was England's negativity that mean't they met Brazil, If they had tried to beat Nigeria we would of gone to the easier side of the draw and avoided Brazil......
    I would find it hard to disagree that goal's win game's, but surely the lack of English goals over the last 20 years, has come down to lack of technique and tactics and i can see Hodgson setting his side up very tactically against France with the object of preventing them from scoring, with us just looking for the quick break from Young and Welbeck, this is largely due to our lack of technical ability, which prevents us from passing to each other and keeping the ball for any length of time...

    English Rugby team 2003 is a poor comparison, although they played negative forward based rugby they were ranked no 1 in the world and for the previous 2/3 years had beaten the Southern Hemisphere side's on a regular basis, and were favorite's going into that world cup.

  • Comment number 42.

    @ 39 Dizzee69

    Our problem in Euro 2000 was being sloppy defensively. Had Phil Neville not gone diving in for a challenge in the last minute against Romania then we would have got a draw and progressed easily. The Romanians were not great at that tournament - if I remember they were beaten quite easily by Italy in the Quarter-Finals.

    I actually said in my post no. 16 that I think it will be a close match and in my post no. 27 that I think we can progress from the group stage so we are actually in agreement there.

  • Comment number 43.

    Newsflash!

    This just in from the Ukraine. England STILL undefeated!

  • Comment number 44.

    England will prevail!

    End of story.

  • Comment number 45.

    Come on England!!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Did France win the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000? I thought meceneries did?

  • Comment number 47.

    The best thing that can happen for England is we get underestimated. History shows France have been known to do it a few times.

  • Comment number 48.

    If Denmark (rated 9th in World) beating Holland (rated 4th) is a major upset?

    How can France (rated 14th) be favourites to beat England (rated 6th)?

    Or are we just making excuses again before a ball has been kicked.

  • Comment number 49.

    I think England has got a chance just like anybody else and against France its a game for the taking. I still think it will end up in a draw which is not a bad result for the first match.

    I then think that England will collect a further four points and reach the quarters.

    As for the 'great footballing nation' it depends on the definition of that. Is it based on the national team, local leagues, fans passion etc?

    http://tinyurl.com/6nxvqum

  • Comment number 50.

    Oooooh, other teams beware. Phil McNulty senses determination in the England camp. And for good reason too; after all, Steven Gerrard furrowed his brows.

    What you call confidence is what is probably best described as football elitism. What Gerrard actually meant was "How dare you, reporter of the lowly Ligue 1, ask me, captain of Liverpool, self-proclaimed biggest club of the self-proclaimed best league in the world, such a question? I shall flash my fluky Champions League medal as well as a string of mid-table finishes in your face, in addition to the mediocre historical record of my national team in World Cups and European Championships, to justify my demeaning attitude towards you."

  • Comment number 51.

    This is a bit OTT for me. The jounalist asked a valid question, politely also. Of course we are a great footballing nation. But have we shown it recently? No in my opinion.

    Having said that a lot comes down to luck. Quite a few of the times we have been knocked out it could have gone either way.

    I am not convinced about this team either, hopefully they will prove me wrong in my underestimation.

    We will know later.

  • Comment number 52.

    As a sharp critic of the Capello England, I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised by Hodgson's handling of this new look squad. He is confident, measured and talks common sense without having that attitude of "we'll do better next time".

    He's relaistic and if we play bad tomorrow, he'll tell us and try to fix it.

    One thing we'll know after this tournament and that is if we're any good or not. If we're not, I think he'll clean house and start with a younger squad.

    I think we'll lose by a hair tomorrow and I doubt we'll get out of the Group, but I am confident that we have the right man in charge finally.

  • Comment number 53.

    The fact is the French journalist makes a valid point. No matter what Gerrard might say, or what he believes, England have played poorly so many times in tournaments that any other opinion must be considered delusional. England ceased to be a great football nation some time ago. This tournament gives England an opportunity to rejoin the 'big' teams. Unfortunately, based on recent form, the players available, and the players coming through, I expect no immediate change to their declining status. I hope I am wrong but wishing, like Gerrard's words, will not make it so.

  • Comment number 54.

    I'm half French and have been living in France for a while but I'm obviously an England supporter.
    What the French journalist said is typical of French arrogance, but there's a clear reality check. The French have won 2 major tournaments and would probably deserve a better ranking in the FIFA than they have at the moment even if they've been dismal during the most recent tournaments.
    England on the other hand have been what Spain have been for a long time underachievers with lots of talent. When Laurent Blanc summarizes England will be a physical team, I think he hasn't analyzed the fact that England can be - if they click - a quite technical team.
    The whole problem is that. I recently watched the games between 2002 and 2006, the "golden era" shall we say, well I think we were far more technical than many other teams, and I still think we are.
    The problem we've been having is the lack of world class keepers and luck, twice we bowed out at penalty shoot outs, with unbelievable misses.
    Now we arguably have one of the best keepers in the world, but we still have to click even if the friendlies were positive - we can also include the 1-0 against Spain in those ones.
    The day we will start to click we will be lethal, we went through to the under 21 finals in 2009 and have some very promising players.
    That will take time, a bit like Spain I reckon.
    For this tournament I won't be holding my breath for England, though as most of you here my heart's pounding and I'm itching for that game to start.
    If I were England I'd probably go out and play at least try to beat France just to shut their mouths up and then well honestly I wouldn't care. Nothing's better than beating arrogance with humility.

  • Comment number 55.

    French arrogance? Surely not, I'ver never known the French to be arrogant or miserable.

    Ahem.

    I've no doubt the journalist will be pleased with himself, yet this kind of smug attitude often backfires.

  • Comment number 56.

    @ Waldovski (50): it's an international tournament; Gerrard is there to lead the national side. Try to leave your personal resentment, along with your replica Chelsea shirt (I'm guessing) to one side. You may not rate him. I assure you our opponents do.

  • Comment number 57.

    United at the moment. Lets see what the mood is tomorrow. A loss often changes the mood. Tight knot groups can often become numerous cliques if they are beaten today. I expect a draw. However, if France get an early goal I cannot see England coming back to getting any kind of result. The game against Sweden then becomes important and with their record against England (Draws and victories and their attacking options) England could be home in 10 days. So much so that even the FA logistics have no confidence that the return flight has already been organised.

    I also wish that Mr Hodgson would stop referring to Terry as a 'Warrior' and asking him to bring all his qualities to the game today. I guess the safest place for the team is Terry on the pitch, at least they know what he is upto. France's coach must also inform their players to rile Terry up and get him to make a mistake. Then we will see the true character of Terry, maybe it is not the fans they have to worry about making certain chants.

  • Comment number 58.

    Our best hope for the tournament could be that we have Roy Hodgson as coach. We don't really have the best technical ability and those an organised well drilled team who dont concede probably gives us our best chance. The best recent example is Chelsea in the European cup and Greece Euro 2004. We need to set the team with pace to burn on the counter attack I.e Oxlade Chamberlain, Young and Wellbeck. Terry and co will have to defend for their lives and hope we actually get some luck. With our current crop of players we are not capable of playing the likes of Spain off the park. I also think Parker is key in midfield, far more effective in the centre than all the other candidates. But if it doesnt work the press will have a field day with where's out 'Arry etc.

  • Comment number 59.

    The French start as favourites. I have read numerous posts about England having a great win ratio. Obviously that has not helped England win any tournaments since 1966 or even not qualify for numerous tournaments. France have won two tournaments in the recent past. If they get their house in order I would not be surprised if France were the dark horses in this tournament and by the World Cup in Brazil they could be the Germany of 2010. England on the other hand, may possibly get out of the group then the expectations will be raised and they will come back down to earth with a big thump because the team is poor. Defending is all well and good but you still need a bit of magic to threaten the opposition. If an early goal by France in the first 20 minutes I expect a score line of 3 - 0 to France. If England score first then the best I would give is a draw. Reason being England will get that goal and sit back but France have the talent to get a goal. France are slightly weak in central defence but I cannot see England exploiting that because for 90% of the game they will sit back and invite pressure on themselves.

  • Comment number 60.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 61.

    If what has been reported is accurate by the press then Hodgson appreciates partnerships and understanding from club level. I expect Wellbeck to start upfront with Young. However, an early goal by France will lead to more for them. In which case poster 60 I would agree with your assessment of the England v France game. However, I expect Sweden to get a result against Ukraine, 2-1.

  • Comment number 62.

    My expert opinion.....

    Soul_patch_of_David_villa is an imbacile

  • Comment number 63.

    Good luck England. Let's hope this is the start of something special.

  • Comment number 64.

    you've got to be joking, france.... win!?, you didn't see the quiet confidence in Gerrard and Hodgson

  • Comment number 65.

    It will be a tough game. we could do without the anti french rubbish in the red top papers this morning. I live part of the time in France and you would never see the type of grubby coverage in French newspapers. I'm dreading England getting a good result because tuesdays papers will be calling us the best team in the world.

  • Comment number 66.

    England could win....could lose....could draw! As long as they attempt to win and remove the shackles i'll be pleased. As an Englishman I'll be cheering/supposting regardless! Perhaps the doubters/haters/ should follow the Cricket instead...they are No1 in the world after all.

  • Comment number 67.

    @the_soul_patch_of_david_villa (60)

    Are you aware that an absolutely astonishing amount of alliteration appears in your awfully arrogant assessment?

  • Comment number 68.

    I dont quite understand why Gerrard is "a deserved return of the armband" frankly I thought he has had a mediocre season (or even couple of years) but to each their own I suppose.

    I also wonder if Terry should start. I understood the logic in having the (well 3 of the 4) Chelsea back-line together, it made sense. Now with Gary Cahill out it looks like he is going to play Lescott & Terry. Given both of these like to play the same side, I do wonder if it wouldnt be more balanced to play Lescott and Jagielka)

    That being said, I think a draw would be a good result tonight. France ripped us to shreds 18 months ago (at Wembley), sure it was a friendly but it was a friendly for both teams.

    Still I will be watching the match wishing the team well regardless of their club shirt colour.

    I do think getting out of the group would be a good result though, I just find it hard to be overly optimistic about England.

  • Comment number 69.

    The last time England dished out good football was during Sven Goran Errikson,s era when he played the qualifiers. Hopefully this team can equally perfom however I have my doubts at the back four!

  • Comment number 70.

    I cannot wait for the press tomorrow where the same people will be bashing the English team. Expectations have been raised as if this team is full of super heroes going on a battle field, to fight the battle of their lives. The reality is they are a bunch of overpaid/overrated media-made heroes who will not be able to string passes together and play long-ball game. Completely agree with #60!

  • Comment number 71.

    ZZZZzzzzzzz........Yaawwwnnnn....

  • Comment number 72.

    Here hoping England can do a Zambia or Greece, Welbeck to get the winner.

  • Comment number 73.

    One extra incentive for tonight's game, after yesterday's results, there is a real possibility that Croatia will finish second in Group C, with Italy or Spain (probably Italy) topping the group. Me thinks France and England would quite fancy a quarter final against the Croats...

  • Comment number 74.

    @73

    You're touting Spain to go out? Big call that would probably be worth a couple of quid

    I don't see us beating France or getting through, but it's time to just look foward to the game. What will be will be

  • Comment number 75.

    Spain 1-1 Italy, not many would have predicted that result...


    Except the 11 Italian players who had money on it...

  • Comment number 76.

    75. At 09:19 11th Jun 2012, Jesus the Teddy Bear wrote:

    HAHA Brilliant! (and probably true)

  • Comment number 77.

    The French will hammer England tonight. i think the english always have there hopes up, the last world cup it was the "golden generation" we all know what happened there, this comp its been different. no one expects much so 2 weeks before the comp the english media use the fact that the team isnt at is best and the fact on one expects anything as a lever to say england can do it as no one xpects anything from them. im very hung over so my comment prob wont make much sense..........

  • Comment number 78.

    England 2 - 1 France !!!!!

    I think people are building the French up too much. Ribery and Nasri can be easily contained , Benzema is the only real threat.

  • Comment number 79.

    Hodgson has asked his players to replicate their PL form when playing for England. i do hope he wasn't referring to our Liverpool players when he said that! Downing-no assists/no goals in 38 PL games. Carroll-less than 10 goals all season. Henderson-need i say anything? Gerrard-injured for half the season.
    I have a feeling that the big teams arent going to do well at Euro 2012 but that doesnt mean we will. However I can see us possibly getting a draw against France. It'll be Sweden and Ukraine we'll fail against.

  • Comment number 80.

    The french front 3 will run rings round Terry, Lescot and Johnson. Hart and Cole are world class players as is Gerrard but after that we will struggle to match up to the young french side

  • Comment number 81.

    So Phil any justification for the
    "Gerrard's appointment as captain, a deserved return of the armband"

    because as far as I can see Gerrard has not done well for England for a number of years and in fact the only games he has ever controlled at international level were against Andorra.

    With the way we look set to play do we need a captain who rather than play a simple pass and keep the ball moving, would try and play a 40 yard hollywood pass that won't actually get us anywhere.

    Besides it's rather refreshing to have a journalist ask an interesting question rather than the level of questions usually asked at these things!

  • Comment number 82.

    @60

    So you see England scoring? Who'd do you reckon will get it?

    Personally i see us going down 3 - 0, but i can't see Ukraine getting a result against Sweden

  • Comment number 83.

    @77

    Wassup? Not enough Man United players in the squad for your liking?

  • Comment number 84.

    @83

    Don't know about a lack of players from any team, just far to many from 1 particular mid-table outfit, who epitomise under performance

  • Comment number 85.

    It doesnt bode well when you pick so many Liverpool players, Gerrard is the only one of real quality, LFC finished so far down the league I dont know where they finished 7th or 8th then to pick the likes Downing (no form no goals no assists all season) over Adam Johnson is just plain rediculus.

  • Comment number 86.

    Not sure what the blog is trying to saying really. Still, it gives us a forum for a chat about tonight. :-D

    Like most people I would imagine, we have our reservations about this evening but at the same time, lets be open and not pre-judge.

    We've seen some entertaining stuff in the six matches so far. Let's hope for more of the same.

    (p.s. pleased to read that Di Matteo is now looking favourite for the Chelsea job.)

  • Comment number 87.

    Those on here talking about the French hammering us are wide of the mark. Im not an optimistic England fan-how can I be when Ive watched them since 1966, but I dont see France running rings around us. A creditable draw is what I see BUT..when it comes to Sweden and Ukraine-yes a very different kettle of fish. However despite my better judgement I can see us getting out of the group-dont know how but I can see it. And the QFs-well it could be Croatia or Italy because i cant see Spain scoring enough to win matches. We are rarely hammered but yes it could happen-depends on us not committing unforced errors like giving the ball away. We must treasure possession of the ball-something you dont see in the PL.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm not a fan of England internationally but still admire Gerrard's passion for his national shirt. The question might have been provocative and backed by history but the truth is still in there somewhere. I hope he can translate his obvious leadership qualities to spur his team. I can only wish England the best.

  • Comment number 89.

    It may work out quite well with so many Liverpool players as they are used to underachievement recently yet still look good in cup comps. Ticks all the boxes.

  • Comment number 90.

    83.
    At 09:36 11th Jun 2012, dogeared wrote:

    @77

    Wassup? Not enough Man United players in the squad for your liking?
    ===========================================================
    Unlike some idiots, im happy not many united players are there and hopefully Rooney wont have to play either. I was in wrinkles when cahill lampard and Barry all got injured after roy not taking carrick and ferdinand. downing carroll and henderson getting on for england just shows how low the caliber is these days, gerrard being injured for half a season then gets picked for england captian just shows roy really wants to say sorry to liverpool for his short time in "charge"

  • Comment number 91.

    England will employ the same tactics as Portugal did against Germany. They will play defensive and frustrate France. As French defence are there for the takings i can see England scoring and with the quality that French have in their attack and 22 games unbeaten i can see them scoring as Terry is carrying an injury risk. got to be 1-1, with French doing the pressing and England only going forward on a counter. I hope Downing does not start and this is coming from a liverpool fan. However i would start Carroll to make his presence felt and winning few headers against the french defence would shake them up as in the whole team thats where they are fragile. France 1 England 1.

  • Comment number 92.

    It was never a problem because for so many years we had spain to keep us company on the serial underachievers bench, The difference now is that unlike spain we do not seem capable of changing the future, we cannot pass, we cannot hold the ball and seem dead set against the idea of passing and moving that makes all the great sides so successful.

    I always stifle a laugh when we talk about our golden generation. Our truly great players all played in the same position (central midfield) Gerrard, Beckham, Scholes, Lampard. We still had no left sided midfielder and had to shoe horn Scholes into that role.

    We are a great football nation though as it is the lifeblood of much of the population, the Premier League is arguably the foremost league in the world but our national side isn't and hasn't been great for some time.

  • Comment number 93.

    @86

    It is quite refreshing to have this mindset, especially after 3 days of quality action.

    When will they be looking to tie up his contract, after the Euro's or a.s.a.p.?

    Also do you see any truth in Rameries possible move back to Cruzerio?

  • Comment number 94.

    78.
    At 09:31 11th Jun 2012, repo wrote:

    England 2 - 1 France !!!!!

    I think people are building the French up too much. Ribery and Nasri can be easily contained , Benzema is the only real threat.
    =============================================================
    At least the French have a threat ;)

  • Comment number 95.

    94.At 09:50 11th Jun 2012, King Red wrote:
    _________________________________

    Oh ye of little faith :)

    Could be a draw , but I just cant see us losing.
    With all the recent negative press I think the England camp will have the "Mourinho seige mentality" and they up their game for this tournament.

  • Comment number 96.

    KOPKING2011-Another LFC fan here and have to agree-see comment 79 for my thoughts!
    I cant see beyond a draw this evening. Think we'll play defensively like portugal but i think we'll get the point. We're not as bad as people think but neither are we as good-how we are in the top 5 FIFA rankings is amazing. Id put us at 10 and that would be optimistic! My son saw us against Belgium and tho it was a friendly he was struck by how little England players moved off the ball. It was get rid of it quick but then dont move anywhere to receive it again.

  • Comment number 97.

    Everyone is making the French massive favourites and there is a validity to that thought. But we have already seen that football simply doesn't work like that, especially in an international tournament.

    The French defence is ordinary and England will have heavy regrets if they don't test them out later. It will be an interesting game in terms of tactics and probably much closer than many think it will be.

    England have limitations and we all know that. But so do Denmark and Italy so it won't be a surprise if England attain a positive result. Hodgson must set his team up with some attacking threat, otherwise it is very hard to qualify.

    This is the French football team. They have a knack of shooting themselves in the foot and England have to be ready if that occurs.

  • Comment number 98.

    #93 Theres_something_about_joe

    Looking at the story on here, (which is almost verbatim what's in The Times this morning!) it would seem that the process is quite independent of the Euro's. The Chelsea board will have been doing what they do and Di Matteo has been away on holiday. So, if it happens, it seems likely that it will happen this week when all parties are around, regardless of the Euro's.

    Anyway, what's the story with Ramires? Haven't seen that one. I doubt he is for sale or would go. He's really found his feet this last 18 months and is an important player for us going forward. (And I imagine wouldn't be cheap for any prospective buyer either!)

  • Comment number 99.

    I personally will be glad when the match kicks off so we can focus on the football rather than how many Liverpool players are in the squad, why has Ferdinand not been picked etc.

    On paper this is arguably the weakest squad we have taken to a major tournament in recent years but we still have decent players in most positions.

    Whatever the result tonight (and I think it will be a close match) we stand a good chance of progressing from the group.

    If you look at our performances in recent tournaments since 1996 we have only failed to progress from our group once - at Euro 2000. Had Phil Neville not made that rash challenge in the last minute of the game against Romania then we would have progressed to the knockout stages of all of the tournaments that we have participated in that period.

  • Comment number 100.

    I wish we looked like this -

    Hart,
    Walker, Smalling, Jones, Baines, Carrick sweeping up
    Lennon, Wilshire, Young
    Rooney, Welbeck.

    Instead we have through injury and Roy's astute tactical brain, a team made up of Scousers, and liabilities like John 'subtle' Terry.

    Watch how we keep possession tonight, how we cunningly lure them on to us, then miss chances that even Torres might have scored.

    How we play with spirit and pride with ten men, and finally how we have a perfectly good goal disallowed, which would have salvaged a 3-1 defeat and given us hope for the Swedish showdown.

    Good luck Roy.

 

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