For the first time in my living memory, England are not being trumpeted as a possible winner of a major tournament. No sane person, nor any insane ones, has England progressing past the quarter-finals. In fact, most would consider it an achievement to get out of the group. So is there any way that England can possibly exceed expectations and actually win this thing?
Play like Greece
“Tell me more, tell me more, did they get very far?”
Well, yes they did. They won the whole bloody thing in 2004.
We’re not quite sure. But the Hellenic victory was built on a very solid defensive performance. They scraped through the group stages on goals scored, ahead of Spain. Then they scored a single goal and held on to win 1-0 against France in the quarters. In the semis, they took the Czech Republic into extra time after a goalless 90 minutes and notched another 1-0 victory. And in the final — you guessed it — 1-0 against Portugal.
“Er… can England do that?”
Why not, my curious friend? England’s strength is their solid defence. Combine that with a world class goalkeeper in Joe Hart and tackling fiend Scott Parker protecting the back four, and you may have the Three Lions’ only chance.
“But weren’t Greece just lucky?”
Well yes, in a way. But Italy have always based their game on a solid defence while nicking the odd goal, and they’ve not done too badly. Chelsea won the Champion’s League by parking the bus against Barcelona and Bayern and then riding their luck. Switzerland defeated Spain in the World Cup with a similar tactic. So it’s not beyond reason.
Unleash the Ox
“Who is this Ox that you speak of?”
Well the Ox is a symbol of power, strength, resurrection, masculinity, fertility, fatherhood and kingship. I know that sounds like John Terry describing a night on the town (or a tweet from Joey “I’ve swallowed Wikipedia” Barton), but in this case we are talking about Alexander Mark David Oxlade-Chamberlain.
“Is he any good?”
He has burst onto the scene similar to a young Wayne Rooney 10 years ago (yes, it was 10 years ago!). He’s 18 years old, as strong as an… well, okay, an ox. Plus he has electric speed and a cracking shot on him.
“He sounds great! What could go wrong?”
It’s England. We always have a player who will “win it all” for us and it never happens. From Beckham to Owen to Rooney, we always seem to have somebody that we pin our hopes on. It’s like pinning the tail on the donkey… except that when you open your eyes, the donkeys are on the pitch.
“So how does England get the best out of him?”
It’s tempting to start him and then let him run at defences, scaring them half to death, but I think in most people’s minds he’ll be an impact substitute. But do English fans really want to rely on the hope that AOC can change the game in the last 20 minutes? With Rooney’s absence in the first two games, it might be worth deploying the young Arsenal player from the start, using his youthful exuberance to give us a chance. Roy Hodgson can always drag him off and put some other clueless wonder on. Step forward, Mr. Walcott.
Wayne might be up for it
“Does Krakow have red light districts?”
Haha.. you cheeky scamp. We actually mean that, after a long season, Rooney will miss the first two games due to the red card he received against Macedonia. After watching the sh!t show that is England stumble around for 180 minutes, Wayne will be chomping at the bit to get involved… and he just may be ready to take it out on the Ukraine and then be raring to go if we get to the knockout stage.
“Haven’t we been here before?”
Yes. Sadly we have. Whether it’s the swish of red being shown, or a metatarsal snapping like a turkey wishbone, you can bet our hopes will be dashed upon the rocks like an Italian cruise ship. (Ed. Note: ATR takes no responsibility for this insensitive — and frankly, obvious — simile).
I’m holding out for a hero
“Is Bonny Tyler going to sing the half-time entertainment?”
No, but Martin Tyler might sing a ditty or two if we ask nicely. What we actually mean is that we need someone to step up and grab this tournament by the scruff of the neck and drag us through to the finals.
“But who, good sir? Who can save us?”
Good question. It’s about time Captain Hollywood — and by that we mean Stevie G — stepped up and played as well in an England shirt as he has for Liverpool. It’s his last hurrah as his career seems to be on the downward slope… so there it’s now or never. We’ll take a few Roy of the Rover moments. A 30-yard screamer into the top corner as the Germans sink to the turf will do us just fine.
“Is he our only hope?”
No. Rooney is another player with the ability to put us on his back and crash us through the European defenses. Maybe even Jordan Hend… what’s that? No! You said I had 30 minutes on the computer. It’s MY turn. I’m not taking those pills. You can’t make me. I don’t want to go to my room. Mother? Not mother? (Sounds of a struggle ensue, as the author’s screams reach a higher pitch. This is followed by squeals of laughter as the author is tickled into submission. How bizarre).
Kevin Hoggard is a frequent contributor to At The Rails about his miserable experiences as an England fan.