England

We go again!

The morning after the night before – waking up and feeling how Mark Lawrenson looks – tired, haggard and with no enthusiasm for life. That is until you remember there are three more World Cup matches to look forward to today. You might be bleary eyed following on from yesterday’s 12 hour marathon of football but you are ready to go again.

This will be remembered as the World Cup that gave us a 2am kick-off and four games in one day.

It will be something to tell the grandchildren about in the future – or alternatively something that will disclose only for people to look at you with distain and roll their eyes.

You were there, sitting on the sofa, in that same groove since 5pm when you saw Gervinho score a World Cup goal at 3.22am.

You were in that same position a few hours earlier when England physio Gary Lewin was stretchered off having injured himself celebrating a goal.

The same groove when Maxi Periera saw red for Uruguay as Luis Suarez looked on from the bench.

The groove that was just beginning when Colombia trickled in the first goal of the afternoon and celebrated in style.

The groove that you will again form when Switzerland-Ecuador kicks off this afternoon, until the final whistle is blown at close to 1am following on from Argentina-Bosnia.

If the past three days are anything to go by, goals are to be expected. Just two teams – Cameroon and Greece – have failed to register a single goal in the tournament.

After eight games, the 2014 World Cup has already given us a glut of goals – 28 in total. In comparison to South Africa four years ago, goals were at a premium with just 13 scored after the same number of games.

Thus far, Brazil is living up to its expectations. Let’s hope that it continues that way!

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Euro 2012: What we learned from Group D?

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Group D brought the group stages of Euro 2012 to a close on Tuesday evening, with England and France qualifying as group winners and runners-up, respectively.

Hodgson’s England effective not entertaining

Qualifying as group winners, means that England have avoided a quarter-final clash with current World and European champions, Spain and will instead face Italy. A draw and two wins, means that Hodgson has won four and drawn one since taking over. Hodgson’s two banks of four, has been effective for England so far. Despite living dangerously against Ukraine for large parts, but Wayne Rooney marked his return with a goal, his first at a European Championship in eight years (since vs Croatia in 2004) The old enemy, Germany await if England beat Italy on Sunday.

France take their foot off the gas

Laurent Blanc’s side have been tipped to be potential dark horses for the tournament, but were far from at their peak in their qualification for the knock-out stages. A 2-0 defeat to Sweden saw Les Bleu’s unbeaten streak of 23-games come to an abrupt halt. Complacency punctuated the defeat to the Swedes and will be cause for concern for Blanc, as a result of finishing second, a Spanish side looking to create history awaits them in the quarter-finals.

Sweden and Ukraine were not whipping boys

While Ireland and Holland travelled home from Euro 2012 without even accumulating a single point, Sweden and Ukraine won a game a piece at the tournament. Ukraine were largely the better team against England, having many chances in the first-half, in particular. The co-hosts gave a great account of themselves in their opening game against Sweden, drunk on the excitement from the crowd, a brace of headers from Andriy Shevchenko spurred them on to a 2-1 victory. Equally, Sweden were unlucky against England, especially having gone 2-1 up only to lose 2-3, but managed to beat at less them impressive French side, when the pressure was off.

Euro 2012 Previews: #14 England

A couple of weeks ago, England were without a manager or a captain, after Fabio Capello departed in February – following the debacle of the FA’s decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy as a result of being charged with racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game. Since then, Roy Hodgson – and not Harry Redknapp as many expected – has been appointed manager. The delay in appointing a manager has led to expectations being lower by fans for the forthcoming tournament.

Qualification was achieved – as England under Capello – remained undefeated in their qualifying group, it must be said, it wasn’t one of the most taxing of groups as winning five and drawing three of their eight games, thus topping their group with 18 points and finishing six clear of second placed Montenegro.

England, major tournament, injuries and controversy almost go hand-in-hand. Wayne Rooney is already suspended for the first two group games but injuries, withdrawals and refusals have punctuated Hodgson’s squad leaving it seriously depleted. Jack Wilshere and Darren Bent have missed large chunks of the season through injury, while Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Kyle Walker have either pulled up or pulled out after suffering injuries in warm up games and training.

It is fair to say that preparation both on and off the field has been far from ideal for Hodgson, with controversy over Rio Ferdinand’s non-selection and Micah Richards’ refusal to bet put on the stand-by list. Hodgson has also come under-fire for certain selections he made when naming his original final 23-man squad, and perhaps rightly so. However, he has had the opportunity to test various formations and personnel in the two warm up games against Norway and Belgium, both of which England won 1-0. The new Greece?

The first group game against France, will probably tell us a lot about how the rest of the group will pan out. Until last November, England had not beaten Sweden since 1968, while Ukraine will be on home turf and will have the crowd on this side. This group could well be damage limitations for England as there is a fine line between success (qualification) and failure (crashing out).

Fixtures: England vs. France (June, 11th), England vs. Sweden (June, 15th) and England vs. Ukraine (June, 19th)