By Chris Davie
It looked unlikely, with seven minutes of normal time remaining, that Chelsea would end Saturday night as European champions, just as it looks equally improbable that England will win Euro 2012.
Chelsea have overcome various hurdles to secure the Champions League, and Roy Hodgson faces a similar task this summer to the one Roberto Di Matteo was billed with when he was installed as interim boss at Stamford Bridge in March. Sink or swim.
'Hodgson out' was trending on Twitter even before the 64-year-old had finished the press conference called to reveal his Euro 2012 squad. Andy Carroll made the England cut-off on the back of his form in the final month of the Premier League campaign, while in Stewart Downing's case, it is difficult to pinpoint the performances across the season which have merited his inclusion.
Hodgson now has to work with what he has in the same way as Di Matteo. The Italian had no transfer window, no players of his own recommendation to bring to the club. He simply had objectives.
Chelsea's performances during their Champions League campaign will hardly provide food for thought for the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or even Bayern Munich, who dominated the majority of play on Saturday evening, but Di Matteo instilled belief into his players and organised his side in such a way that it frustrated opponents.
With an abundance of creativity starved from England's 23-man squad, Hodgson appears to be in a similar predicament. Only, he has more experience of organising and getting the best out of what he is given than Di Matteo.
Chelsea were able to keep Barcelona at bay for the entire game at Stamford Bridge, and Di Matteo's men can also be credited for being the only team who have prevented Benfica from scoring in Champions League this season. Hodgson can use the majority of that firm base at Euro 2012, with Gary Cahill partnering John Terry in the heart of defence, while Ashley Cole occupies the left-back role.
With Terry suspended for the final, Cahill, despite possessing a hamstring injury, had a magnificent game as he pitched in with his share of last-ditch challenges alongside David Luiz, while Cole used his experience to restrict Arjen Robben to long-range attempts and just five on target overall.
Xavi may have had more touches of the ball in the semi-final fixture at Stamford Bridge than Frank Lampard took in both legs combined, but the midfielder played a pivotal role in creating Didier Drogba's winner in the first match against Barcelona, while in the return leg, the 33-year-old provided the assist for Ramires' delightful chip to get Chelsea back into the tie.
Against Bayern, Lampard patrolled the middle alongside John Obi Mikel and showed the range of distribution that will be required to lift England's pedestrian midfield.
In attack, Hodgson is without the luxury of Drogba, but Carroll offers a reasonable alternative as England face their opening group matches against France and Sweden without the threat of Wayne Rooney.
The Liverpool striker had begun to show his aerial prowess by the time the club season was drawing to a close and if he can replicate the Ivorian's swansong for Chelsea, England will be dangerous in attack.
|"Against Bayern, Lampard patrolled the middle of the pitch & showed the range of distribution that will be required to lift England's pedestrian midfield"|
It was never the case that Hodgson would begin his reign as England boss by reinventing the wheel and making wholesale changes ahead of Euro 2012, but he has the ability to replicate Chelsea's organisation and discipline which was displayed throughout their Champions League campaign.
Simon Davies, who played under Hodgson at Fulham, claimed his former manager targeted an improvement at the back in order to stabilise the team going forward. "The first thing he worked on was our defensive shape, making us hard to beat," he said in 2010. "And that carried us through to stay up and we have gone on from there."
We could be in store for something similar this summer, as England's mediocre squad embarks on a demanding Euro 2012 campaign.
Success in a major tournament may not be pretty, as Chelsea proved, but with the right amount of luck, Hodgson may have the foundations to pull off a second upset in Europe this year.
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