Team Profile – England
Number of European Championship Appearances: 9
Best European Championship Performance: Semi Finals (1996)
Number of European Championship titles: 0
Qualifying Form: Played 10 Won 10 Draw 0 Lost 0
Coach: Roy Hodgson – appointed May 2012
Most Capped player: Wayne Rooney (111 caps)
Key Player at Euro 2016: Harry Kane
Roy Hodgson and England enjoyed a carefree passage through qualifying for Euro 2016. The Three Lions won all ten games, becoming just the sixth team to end a European qualifying campaign with a perfect record.
While their achievement was commendable, England’s group was of relatively low quality. They finished nine points clear of a limited Switzerland side with Slovenia five points further adrift.
Since November, their form has been mixed. Defeats to Spain and the Netherlands were mixed with wins against France and Germany while they completed their tournament preparation with a lacklustre win against ten-man Portugal at Wembley.
The critics have been quick to slam Hodgson and his men for that performance and so it is under something of a cloud that they journey to France, perhaps with less burden of expectation than is often the case.
England begin their campaign in Marseille on June 11 against a Russian side that required a dramatic late turnaround under hastily installed manager Leonid Slutski to ensure qualification after they won just one of six qualifiers under former England head coach Fabio Capello.
Next up is a feisty local derby with neighbours Wales in Lens before finally moving onto St Etienne to face off against Slovakia.
Whereas two years ago defeats to Italy and Uruguay condemned them to World Cup failure before they had truly settled, England will fancy their chances in Group B this time around.
Get 7/1 Enhanced odds on England to win Group BLong overdue
It is now 20 years since England reached the last four of a major tournament, eliminated cruelly by old foes Germany in a Euro ’96 semi-final penalty shootout on home soil.
In the intervening period, tournament football has generally brought more disappointment than glee for England.
Hodgson is overseeing a generational change with this England squad. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Ross Barkley being relatively free from the disappointments of past endeavours.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart has spoken in the run-up to France of an enormous hunger that exists within the England camp to leave a mark on a major tournament.
The make-up of the current squad is such that a fast start could see England’s fortunes at Euro 2016 snowball to positive effect.
The squad is brimming with attacking intent and, assuming Hodgson can harness this talent along with veterans like skipper Wayne Rooney, England will present a potent threat to all.
Perhaps Hodgson has signalled his intention to attack by selecting five central strikers for France. Rooney is joined by Kane, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Manchester United’s teenage sensation Marcus Rashford.
It is not just from the front that England will seek to make gains. There is also the promise of attacking football from Tottenham duo Kyle Walker and Danny Rose in the full-back slots.
Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill appear to be in pole position to start in central defence in front of Hart, who is pushed all the way by Southampton’s giant Fraser Forster.
England’s defence remains prone to mistakes and that could be their undoing when the crunch moments arrive.
In midfield, Alli, Barkley, Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson are talented but does Hodgson have a midfield enforcer to dictate the terms of engagement?
Jack Wilshere’s fitness is a major worry after a season of injury woe while Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling are players that have lost their way somewhat this season.
Get 7/1 Enhanced odds on England to win Group BKey Player – Harry Kane
It is not unfathomable that by the end of Euro 2016, Spurs forward Kane will have eclipsed Rooney as England’s talisman.
Rooney top-scored in qualifying with seven goals in eight games while Kane netted only three times during his limited campaign.
That tells but half the story. Kane fired 25 Premier League goals last season compared with Rooney’s meagre haul of eight.
The younger man is quickly developing an X-factor for both club and country and Hodgson needs a good tournament from Kane if his side are going to make significant progress.
If Kane can accentuate a changing of the guard in the England pecking order this summer, then he has ability to fire England deep into the tournament in doing so.
Euro 2016 Prospects
England’s attacking prowess is clear but it was worrying to see Kane, Vardy and Rooney play together and struggle desperately against Portugal.
Can the attacking trio link-up to good effect in France? Would Hodgson countenance the idea of leaving his captain to one side for the betterment of the team?
These are questions that England must answer.
As many as five Tottenham players could start for England against Russia in Marseille – that club’s spectacular implosion near the end of the Premier League season is worthy of note in such a context.
The central defensive trio of Stones, Smalling and Cahill are also prone to errors, regardless of how Hodgson chooses to deploy them.
England have the attacking to talent to target the last four of Euro 2016 and take their chances from there – but they must prove they can cope in the defensive third in order to make that a reality.
June 11 – Russia, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
June 16 – Wales, Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens
June 20 – Slovakia, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Etienne
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), Fraser Forster (Southampton), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United).