The Euro 2016 championship kicks off in France today - but does the England team have what it takes to bring home the trophy?
Probably not, unfortunately - and here are five reasons why:
1. While England have potential to be a dynamic force going forward, there remains considerable concern over the defence. Aside from Chris Smalling, who has been a fundamental part of Manchester United only conceding 35 goals this season, his prospective central defensive partners, Gary Cahill and John Stones, are both going into the tournament on the back of indifferent Premier League seasons. Stones, in particular, looks shorn of confidence.
2. Roy Hodgson. A worldly-wise and cultured boss who has managed all over the globe, but the 68-year-old retains a reputation for conservatism. Critics argue that he doesn’t have the confidence or the gumption to shake off that tag and play more expansively – a midfield diamond behind a front two of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for instance – if necessary.
3. Hodgson’s conservatism could extend to skipper Wayne Rooney. Rooney is not the player who roared into Euro 2004 and his fallibility at tournaments is well documented, while his enduring effectiveness as a striker is questionable. Despite his rhetoric, it remains to be seen whether Hodgson really does have the strength of character to cease accommodating Rooney and drop England’s leading all-time international goalscorer if need be.
4. Just 12 members of Hodgson’s 23-man squad have experience of tournament football. Only two, Wayne Rooney with six and Daniel Sturridge with one, have scored at an international competition. An accusation which could be levied at this group is a lack of experience and know-how at his level. When the pressure hits, they simply don’t have the depth of knowledge – and perhaps scars – of tournaments past to draw on. Maybe that’s a good thing, but maybe it isn’t. Time will tell.
5. England qualified for Euro 2016 with a perfect qualifying record – 10 wins from 10 matches – but history is not on their side. Of the five sides who have previously entered the European Championship on the back of unblemished qualifying records, only Spain in 2012 have gone on to lift silverware. France and Czech Republic suffered ignominious group-stage exits in 1992 and 2000 respectively, while France in 2004 and Germany eight years later crumbled in the knockout stages.