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England built on firm foundations

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012, 15.26CET
If England are to succeed at UEFA EURO 2012, it may be down to their solid defence, says team reporter Andy James as he mulls over Roy Hodgson's options at the back.
by Andy James
from Krakow
Published: Saturday 9 June 2012, 15.26CET

England built on firm foundations

If England are to succeed at UEFA EURO 2012, it may be down to their solid defence, says team reporter Andy James as he mulls over Roy Hodgson's options at the back.

In yesterday's blog I wrote about how England have really made themselves open off the pitch. On it, they are likely to perform in quite a different manner.

In the pair of friendlies they have played under Roy Hodgson, England have looked very tight-knit defensively. The two 1-0 wins against Norway and Belgium showed that the back four, propped up by the excellent Joe Hart in goal, are going to be difficult to penetrate.

Which players will actually comprise England's back line is still not set in stone. Three of the quartet are more or less decided, with Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole the preferred choices at full-back and John Terry in the centre. Following the withdrawal of Gary Cahill, however, the other central defensive position is still up for grabs. Joleon Lescott remains the favourite to step in on the back of his title-winning campaign with Manchester City FC, but with Everton FC's reliable Phil Jagielka also a confident alternative, Hodgson has little to worry about in regard to his rearguard.

It is further forward that concerns begin to arise. With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two matches of the tournament and Jermain Defoe unlikely to feature in the opener against France after travelling home for his father's funeral, England look thin up front. The lack of a classic playmaker has also raised questions as to whether the Three Lions have the creativity to trouble top defences.

Hodgson is renowned for his ability to put together well-organised sides capable of building from the back and nicking the odd goal at the other end. Perhaps the best example is his run to the UEFA Europa League final with Fulham FC in 2010, when the unfancied London outfit overcame several more glamorous opponents before succumbing to Club Atlético de Madrid in the final.

Fulham are certainly not the only side to have enjoyed success based on a solid defence. In fact, there are many more high-profile cases: Arsenal FC of the early 90s, Greece at UEFA EURO 2004, Italy at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and most recently Chelsea FC in this season's UEFA Champions League. The latter absorbed relentless pressure in the semi-finals and final against FC Barcelona and FC Bayern München respectively, but prevailed, ultimately on penalties, under the apparent motto 'If we don't concede, we can't lose'.

Many are suggesting England's best chance of success at UEFA EURO 2012 will be to take the same approach. There's no doubting that the back five, including Hart, is the strongest area of the team, so what is to say they can't use Catenaccio to their benefit in Poland and Ukraine? Let us know your thoughts by adding your comments below.

Last updated: 25/06/12 6.28CET

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