As recorded before, our English football team in the past year routed their opponents in Group E to qualify unbeaten for next year’s France UEFA European finals, but apart from one, it was all against rubbish teams, wasn’t it?
We have now played a couple of fairly good teams in friendlies, so how did it all go then? Well, the first game was away against title holders Spain and we didn’t play well at all losing 2-0 after late goals by the hosts. This week though we hosted France at Wembley Stadium, outplayed them, and won 2-0 (with out of form Rooney scoring a goal) – and while France is currently ranked well below England’s tenth place, that is primarily because they weren’t playing in the qualifying process, and they would normally be in the top 10. That is certainly a good outcome for the English team and delighted the often under fire manager, but we can’t really read too much into it, as for the French it was simply a good practice match with nothing resting on it – it will be a much different matter for them as hosts in the actual Competition, when playing on their own soil, won’t it, eh?
In a few weeks time we will know which three teams England will face at the first stage in the finals (starting 10th June), when the individual six groups of four are drawn by ballot (England is seeded which means that they will not face the other five seeded teams of France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium). That draw will give us all a better idea of England’s chance of getting through from 24 to the last 16 which then proceed to a knock-out competition phase, won’t it?
There were just 16 Countries in the Euro Finals last time round in 2012, and the freshly appointed England manager at that time was the current one Roy Hodgson – the team, under Captain Steven Gerrard, was hoped, if not expected by all, to do very well (current Captain Wayne Rooney had even claimed they could go all the way and win it). However, it was not to be, and there was much criticism of Hodgson’s squad choice (players – injured, banned, experienced but left at home), team selections, formation, and play plan. We only notched-up 1 win in the 3 group games, but nevertheless it got the team through to a goalless quarter final game, where it was all then lost to Italy on penalties (2-4).
Wales, under Manager of three years, Welshman Chris Coleman, is going to be out there as well this time, since they unexpectedly qualified for the first ever time (a good defence supported with striker Gareth Gale – the world’s most expensive player in the world).
Also another first-timer is Northern Ireland (success on the world stage for the first time in three decades, no less). All their managers have been born there, apart from two (English) including the present one of four years Michael O’Neil (not to be confused with their former player Martin O’Neil, who is actually manager of the Republic of Ireland to the south).
Unfortunately, Scotland sadly lost their way again and were well-off qualifying (fourth out of six in their group), so haven’t got through to the finals since the 1900s (despite the new expansion by half of the number of teams going there)– so managers got the push so regularly that the job was part of the nicknamed sack race (however Gordon Strachan, in charge for two years, has bucked the trend and now survives the latest failure to fight-on).
England now have two further international friendlies lined up in late March next year – first against the favourite overseas enemy Germany away, and that will be an interesting encounter won’t it? They are of course a seeded team for the Euros next summer because their world ranking is currently 2.That match is rapidly followed by a home one with Holland (ranked a little below England at number 14. Both these matches are training for both sides before the actual Colosseum fight a little more than two months later, but they promise to be fascinating nevertheless, wouldn’t you say?
[No doubt people will buy their England flags next summer to support their team, and wiil remain glued to their televisions and radios while the team (or even the other home nations) remain involved – but will it all end too early with many tears?]