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Euro 2012: Austerity Measures Represent England's Best Chance of Success

Posted: 05/06/2012 00:00

It may not be the answer to the Eurozone crisis, but could austerity be the order of the day for England at Euro 2012?

Roy Hodgson's side came away with a 1-0 win after the weekend's warm-up clash with Belgium, despite the latter side enjoying 59% of possession.

England allowed Belgium to play, allowed them to pass the ball around at will, but more importantly they did not allow them to advance further than the 18-yard box, and did not allow them to carve out any clear cut chances.

Hodgson said before the game that his goalkeeper, back four and two central midfield positions were pretty much decided, and although that's been scuppered somewhat by an injury to Gary Cahill, it was evident in this game, and things shouldn't change too much despite the Chelsea defender being ruled out.

A world-class goalkeeper, a fairly solid back four, and the shackles very much on Steven Gerrard alongside Scott Parker in the middle of the park. Some may say it's a waste of Gerrard's attacking abilities, yet he was still named man of the match on Saturday.

Similarly, James Milner is very likely to start on one of the wings, further contributing to Hodgson's two banks of four system. The exciting winger-cum-attacking-midfielder-cum-defensive-midfielder-cum-versatile-handyman represents all the key ingredients of this approach: hard work, hustle and bustle, as opposed to the flair and fleet-of-foot types such as Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, although both are in with a chance of a start against France.

Many will point to the Champions League success of Chelsea, who soaked up all the pressure and withstood the barrages all the combined might of Barcelona and Bayern Munich could muster.

Indeed, two of the back four, John Terry and Ashley Cole, will be the same, although given Terry was sent off against Barcelona and did not play against Bayern, too much attention cannot be paid to that.

Ironically, given the state of their economy, England could also learn a thing or two about this austerity measure from Greece. Not a statement you will hear too often, but in matters of football, as opposed to finance, it makes sense.

They were ranked as much bigger outsiders back in 2004 than England are now, yet went on to win the whole competition. The blueprint was a fairly simple one of 'defend, defend, nick a goal, defend'. They won three games in that competition 1-0. It's not pretty, but history remembers ugly winners, not beautiful losers.

Of course, keeping out France - and then possibly the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland - will be a far harder challenge than doing so against Belgium. But it will give them a chance. Given the players selected, England cannot dream of competing with these sides when it comes to 'playing' football. Thus, if they cannot be proactive, they must be reactive.

It's not a viable long-term approach, and the aim must be - by the 2014 World Cup - to have a side capable of competing with the likes of those mentioned above, not to mention the hosts of that tournament: Brazil.

But for now, at least, with the national team in such a mess thanks to everyone either being injured or 'retired', it represents a chance. It may be a slim one, but it's better than nothing.

 

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