England’s chances of winning Euro 2012 have been so comprehensively written off they may as well be crushed into a neat cube and used for scrap. But for the one-eyed English football fan hope springs eternal, and here are five reasons why.
Don’t forget you can watch every match of the tournament live on Freeview with BBC and ITV. You can also enjoy games at your leisure by recording them on your BT Vision+ Box™ or watching them on Catch up. And tune into England’s final warm-up match against Belgium live on ITV1 on 2 June
1 Our first choice keeper isn’t rubbish
If you pass a large human-shaped mound of cotton wool, sheathed in bubble wrap with FRAGILE plastered all over him, the chances are it’s Joe Hart. He is the most reassuring presence in England’s goal since David Seaman hung up his moustache, and his mighty hands are unlikely to usher a tame, bobbling shot apologetically into the net as Rob Green did against the US at the 2010 World Cup. If Hart gets injured you are allowed cry.
2 The Lampard-Gerrard conundrum is dead!
Every injury is a tragedy. But thank the Lord Frank Lampard’s twanged thigh has finally put an end to the question that has vexed football scholars up and down the land– can they play together? Years spent fruitlessly crowbarring them into the same team and mumbling about “dovetailing, one goes the other stays”, suggest the answer is no, but every new England manager has thought “I can make it happen. Let me walk you to the Lampy-G promised land”. Now, at last, one of them, Steven Gerrard, will be able to maraud freely without bumping into the other.
3 Andy Carroll – he’s a handful
When the striker signed for Liverpool pundits across the land queued up to tell an unbelieving world that, “on his day, he’s a handful for anyone”. Turns out for most of last season he was only a handful if your hands were the size of a newborn baby’s. But just recently his form has blossomed, which is lucky because he’s likely to step into Wayne Rooney’s shoes for the first two games. And the thought of him pounding towards you, his ponytail swishing back and forth like the mane of a stallion in full gallop, is terrifying indeed. Whether he’s in control of the ball at the time is another matter.
4 The freedom of low expectations
It’s not that everybody hates us and we don’t care, it’s that nobody really cares. Which is great. The weight of expectation hangs heavily on the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland, while Roy Hodgson’s men can revel in the liberating role of underdogs. If Hodgson’s good at anything it’s organising average players into solid teams. Remember Greece in 2004, remember Denmark in 1992. Now think England in 2012.
5 England’s wild card
The Three Lions have a history of introducing the world to youngsters of great potential at World Cups and European Championships. Paul Gascoigne, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney burned brightly at major tournaments as lithe prodigies. This time around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be that man, coming off the bench to provide some unpredictable wit and pace as England fight for the draw they will doubtless need in their final group game to squeeze into the knockout stages. They always need a draw. That or bring on Phil Jagielka as a makeshift forward and command John Terry to “put it in the mixer”.
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