This is the last chance for the Golden Generation of England to win a trophy, but the expectations are lowered for a reason.
One week later, Chelsea finally won the elusive Champions League trophy by beating Bayern Munich on its home soil with Didier Drogba converting the winning penalty kick.
So if you forms hold true and if you believe in karma, this is England’s year, right? Surely, the European Championship for Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and the boys to win.
The answer, of course, is a resounding no. It would make for a storybook ending to a remarkable year in English soccer but even the London odds-makers have little faith in Roy Hodgson’s cut-and-paste roster making much noise at Euro 2012.
Even though the Three Lions have fared well in their last three friendlies, dating back to November’s 1-0 win over Spain, the defending World Cup champ. England followed that victory at Wembley Stadium with a pair of 1-0 wins over both Norway and Belgium.
The results have been positive and that’s always a good way to enter a major tournament. But Hodgson’s side has been decimated by several key injuries which have ruled out Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Gary Cahill and, ahem, John Ruddy.
Winning Euro 2012 no longer seems realistic. In fact, finishing in the top two in Group D against the likes of France, Sweden and co-host Ukraine will not be easy. Rooney, in fact, will miss the first two matches, including Monday’s opener against the French, as part of his suspension.
"The team and squad were built up as the golden generation and the expectation and pressure grew over the years," Gerrard said. "We were expected to deliver in a major tournament and, by deliver, that means going to a final or winning a trophy.
"We were put down as favorites in previous tournaments and, maybe, because we haven't done that, the expectations this time will be less. But that could suit us and turn into a positive. By the same token there will be a certain amount of pressure and expectation because we are England."
Give the Liverpool midfielder credit for trying to give the team’s supporters a reason to be optimistic. But England lacks the creativity and offensive firepower to compete with the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland. There is this idea that England will follow the formula Chelsea used its in Champions League semifinal win at Barcelona and its final win at Munich: sit back and defend and try to somehow steal a goal. It’s a boring style but it may be England’s best hope.
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"If you don't defend well when the opposition have got the ball and you concede goals, ... that loses you games,'' Hodgson told the BBC. "And if you don't do anything with the ball or attack and you can't score then you don't win anyway.''
Hodgson replaced Fabio Capello as England’s manager in February so England has a built-in alibi right there. Even Arsenal’s Theo Walcott says that it “will take time" with a new manager. Already it sounds as if England is using Euro 2012 to build for the 2014 World Cup.
It may not be a bad strategy because England isn't ready to take on Europe. They should have sent Man City instead.