HOW Chelsea won the Champions League, I’ll never know. The same might be said for England topping their Euro 2012 group by three points. The two achievements were based on similar ingredients, offering hope that Roy Hodgson’s men could progress further, but there are some glaring concerns at the tournament’s halfway stage.
England’s biggest positive has been their results. The draw with France set the tone and bred a confidence that helped them fight back to beat Sweden and Ukraine – wins they scarcely deserved.
Hodgson has achieved a great deal in a short time. Tactically he has been smart, choosing a reliable formation and selecting his team wisely. Using Andy Carroll against Sweden, for instance, showed he had done his homework.
Communication-wise he has also succeeded, with the players seeming to understand their roles well and, crucially, playing with a little less anxiety and fear than they did under Fabio Capello.
On the other hand, results are about the only to thing to write home about because the level of play has been poor.
England’s inability to retain possession may be a familiar complaint but it is a major problem. Misplaced passes and a failure to work harder when they have the ball leaves them chasing more than they would need to and blunts their attacking threat. You can only play when you have the ball, after all.
It’s naive to think England can become master technicians overnight so Hodgson was right to prioritise solidity and hope for a platform from which to build. There is much room for improvement, but they’ve done well.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played in both the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and the 1988 European Championships. He now works as a media commentator and talent scout.