Matt Holland (PA)

England won't be pretty but will be hard to beat

By SportUK 07/06/2012 14:44

I can't remember the last time English expectations were this low going into a major championships.


A change of manager so close to the start of the tournament, a number of injuries in the build-up and a huge furore over the non-selection of Rio Ferdinand have all played their part in dampening fans' hopes for them to be successful.England manager Roy Hodgson (Owen Humphreys-PA Wire)


Contrary to Ireland, it is difficult to predict who will get the nod to start their opening game against France what with Bent, Walker, Cahill, Barry and Lampard all out injured and Rooney missing the first two matches through suspension.


Having watched England's two warm-up games against Norway and Belgium, I think there are seven certain starters with four places up for grabs.


Assuming everyone is fit, I think this is how England will line up against France: 


                                            JOHNSON     ?     TERRY     COLE
                                              ?     PARKER     GERRARD     ?


The four question marks lie over who will partner John Terry in central defence, the two wide men and who will lead the line up front.


Starting at the back, I think Joleon Lescott is in pole position. It is a straight choice between him and Jagielka and, considering Jagielka was only on standby originally, you would assume the City man will get the nod. The issue is complicated slightly by the fact that Lescott and Terry both prefer to play on the left side of central defence but I still think Lescott will get the nod.


Out wide I have a feeling Roy Hodgson will pick Milner and Downing, especially against the French. I expect he will be more defensive with his selection for the first game and those two are probably the better option in terms of getting back into shape and being organised and compact. That would leave Walcott and Oxlaide-Chamberlain on the bench.


Up front the choice appears to be between Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck. They are very different players and it is difficult to know which way it will go. It may be that if Ashley Young does indeed play centrally off the striker then Welbeck will be given a start. They are team mates at United, showed a good understanding against Belgium and combined well for the goal.


Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck (Owen Humphreys-PA Wire)Welbeck obviously provides more pace as well but I wouldn’t rule out Carroll. He's clearly a more physical threat and, if England do play more defensively, then they will want the ball to be held up front to allow the midfielders to join. I honestly don’t know which of the two Hodgson will pick.


As for England's key men, Ashley Young has become a prominent figure and has started to add goals to his game as well. Six in his last 10 matches at this level is testament to that and it is important that he sees as much of the ball as possible.


The skipper Steven Gerrard is still a brilliant player but will have to temper his natural game slightly if asked to play in a holding midfield role. He can still cause problems for the opposition though with his wonderful range of passing.


Joe Hart has become one of the best in the business. He is still very young but plays with great confidence which helps the back four.


The first two games of the Hodgson reign suggest that England will play in a similar fashion to that of Ireland. It may not always be pretty but they will definitely be organised and difficult to beat.


It won’t be enough to win the competition in my view but it will be at least good enough to get through the group and into the quarter-finals. After the traumatic build-up that would represent something of a success.


No reason Ireland can't make the perfect start


Follow me on Twitter @mattholland8


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08/06/2012 10:20
The problem with England is this... The players are just not good enough. I suppose what will happen is that we will do the usual for tournaments and play tooth and nail, get knocked out in the quarter finals and find some reason, or referee decision, to feel hard done by. Its always the way, and that won't change. I don't see Roy Hodgson getting fired even if we don't get anywhere because he's only been in the job a short while, and he can't work miracles, only do the best with what hes got.

The thing the English FA need to do is to invest heavily in youth development, improve technical ability rather than playing kick and rush. When I lived in Madrid a friend of mine worked at a youth football academy and the number of young kids there and the quality of the facilities was amazing. Here, the government is more interested in selling off school playing fields for a quick buck. Italy did the same in the 60's and took on the problem of their failing national side. If they can do it, so can England. If the FA decide to stick with the status quo and go on replacing managers, then England will continue to fail.

Unless we see similar changes here, we will have to endure the familiar fate that we have come to expect from England teams from the last 30 years. The FA need to wake up and so do the die-hard fans. The first step is to accept there is a problem with English football and to put in place a stategy to change. I have seen this level of investment in Spain and just look at what they have achieved in the last 6 years... Only a European cup and World cup...
11/06/2012 01:48
I 'me proud to be English and proud of my national side.A team should not rely on any one individual, don't write them off before they even start give them a chance.
We stand as much chance as anyone else if the players go out there and give it their all, I am sure they will. Its better to go down fighting than with a whimper.
God bless them all :-)
11/06/2012 01:18
we need a manager with some balls that will get rid of the has-beens that has won us nowt and get some young blood in that are hungry to play for their country and will actually sing the national anthem with pride
08/06/2012 09:59
That's quite subtle !!!

A pic of Rooney with the caption "England won't be pretty"

NO **** SHERLOCK !!!!

11/06/2012 00:29
I hope our defence is  far better than the republic of Ireland they were comprehensively beaten by croatia tonight
11/06/2012 07:44
That is what I love about this country we love to slag off our own. They haven't even started and we have stated they will fail. Good luck to them all tonight all anyone can ask is they try their best. Come on England !!!!
11/06/2012 05:07
wish all you people posting lonely hearts ads would go away and stop infesting every page with your ads.
08/06/2012 09:14

Greece Won the Euro's and who the hell would of thought that....!!!

Chelsea Won Champions league by complete luck...


Anything could happen....!!!!

08/06/2012 10:19
So have I understood this correctly..... Matt Holland says "Assuming everyone is fit, I think this is how England will line up against France" then follows by leaving FOUR positions blank...... What an incredible football pundit! *Cough*
08/06/2012 09:15

Say it as we all say and think. Nobody inspires so nobody gets excited any more. Prove us all wrong, just for once.

We also have so many players in this country, Prove yourself or loose your place.

Hunger has always paid dividends.!

08/06/2012 09:38
Racism - What is going on - FA have dug a hole & got it so wrong with the Ferdinad & Terry saga, won;t talk & closing there eye;s to it - EUFA are closer there eyes to it - not monkey chants - what was i watching on this mornings telly. This is one big, gone wrong farce with the FA pulling strings & Roy obeying. Sorry, i have lost interest, going on holiday.
08/06/2012 09:36
There must be nearly 400 professional players in the Premiership League and hundreds more in the other divisions

Can someone please explain to me why we use the same players year in, year out with just a couple of changes every now and then?

Ferdinand should be the start of a major overhaul of who gets into the England squad - If you dont perform well for a couple of games - then you are out. Losing your place in the team should be motivation enough. There are plenty of other players up and down the country who would like to give it their best shot (and probably deserve it more than the current bunch of goons)

08/06/2012 09:49
lovin' the headline 'England won't be pretty' and Wayne Rooney's dish in the pic below. Classic.
11/06/2012 00:26

Woo hoo, lucky omen then, since Matt Holland also predicted Chelsea couldn't possibly get past Barcelona.


But to be honest, he's probably got this one right, but then again, it's not a bold prediction really is it?

08/06/2012 09:17

HATE TO SAY IT BUT ............



08/06/2012 09:08

Its the same old same old story again. When will the people in charge of the English National Team ever learn ? The fact that they've taken the same sorry players with them again, most of whom failed miserably the last couple of times around, speaks volumes for the hopeless mistakes these selectors repeatedly make ! They certainly don't live in the real world and choose to take no notice of the common opinions on they're delusional ideals. They're so wound up in their little 'football world' that they can't see the wood for the trees !.. They'll be lucky to make it through the first round..


11/06/2012 07:37
You have to believe, or hope whatever you want to do, but England are in it and anything is possible, the Danes 20 years ago, Greece in 2004, i'm not saying for a minute that they will win it but they will have my support till whatever stage they get to.
08/06/2012 10:34
Sometimes unexpected things happen in strange circumstances.  Remember Greece won it in 2004 and they were 150 - 1 outsiders. As long as they play they have a chance.

Difference about this time is there's absolutely no expectation and no pressure on anyone to deliver and it's times like this that people bring out there best. I think we'll be surprised at how well we will do.

11/06/2012 01:49

The team that wins the tournament will be the team with a good defence capable of keeping possession and able to hit the back of the net

sounds obvious but England are not good at possession play

The defence is good but have we got the ability to score goals?

only time will tell (Fingers crossed)

11/06/2012 00:17
I hope England surprise everyone but i honestly cant see it happening. We should face the fact we are a third rate team, with players who earn 200,000 a week win or lose so how are you ever going to really motivate them.
Terry should not be in the team at all, he is a despicable person, he should not represent our country until after the findings of the racist court case against him.
L mc made some valid points about the team a few posts down from this one, we should be bringing in more young players, we have too many foreign players in our leagues, several of our squad have had their day. we need a shake up,new blood with fire and a will to win, not just turn up for the hot bath. Having said all that I shall still be shouting them on and willing them to win,or at least put on a good show.

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  • Matt HollandMatt Holland

    Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Matt Holland talks all things football from the Premier League to the grass roots.

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