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No more years of hurt: does England stand a chance of glory at Euro 2016?

football. The ball flies into the net gate
football. The ball flies into the net gate
football. The ball flies into the net gate

If David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds were to re-release their beloved song “Three Lions” ahead of Euro 2016, that fateful line would now proclaim, “50 years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming”, as it has now been half a century since England won a major football tournament. Indeed, the closest they have come since that celebrated day was a semi-final during the 1990 World Cup in Italy; they were beaten by West Germany on penalties. While football fans across the country may be preparing themselves for failure, or refusing to get their hopes up altogether, the positivity that surrounds Roy Hodgson’s young team this year is inescapable. It’s said every year, but this year could be the year – and why not? Stranger things have happened…

Placing bets: predicting England’s chances

As this post goes to press, England is on odds of around 11/1 to win; suddenly, the semi-finals and latter stages of the competition don’t seem that far away. Perhaps the biggest factor determining England’s chances of success will be the players that Hodgson decides to choose to represent the country, and the formations he puts into action. The tournament’s opening matches are drawing ever closer, and the England manager now has the task of whittling down his chosen few; who’s going to ensure victory against Russia in Marseille on 11th June? Speculation is rife, but the same names continue to crop up; Wayne Rooney would perhaps do well to captain a younger, more fearless team, while the likes of Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Joe Hart, Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck, among others, have all been mentioned as potential star players in their respective positions. This could be a squad that uses youth to its advantage and flourishes against more mature and established sides.

The factors determining England’s fate

The positivity of youth is one thing, but England’s performance is riding on so much more. What are these determining factors? The first, and perhaps most important, will be which teams they meet during the group stages; wins during this early stage are likely to bolster England throughout the rest of the tournament. The draw has been incredibly kind to England this year, with Group B also comprising Russia, Wales and Slovakia; FA Chairman Greg Dyke has claimed that it would be “bad news for English football” if the team couldn’t progress past this array of teams. Bookmakers and sources such as 888sport have also been quick to note that, as this is a European tournament, dominant teams such as Brazil, Uruguay and Chile won’t stand in the way of Hodgson’s dreams as they did during 2014’s World Cup. Also, Spain, France and Germany are in different groups for Euro 2016’s opening matches, and so it seems likely that England will only meet, and have to beat, one of them in order to progress to the tournament’s latter stages. Things are looking up for England already, although Hodgson has a lot of planning to do between now and June.

As always, there have been numerous predictions surrounding England’s chances already, with many famous names giving their opinions – all of these sentiments have weight behind them, but who will prove correct?

For winning…

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has been particularly supportive, although his prediction for success hinges on Jack Wilshere regaining his fitness in time. Meanwhile, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp doesn’t doubt England’s potential for victory, but questions their abilities against teams that will be far more rested after a winter break. The ability is there, but will the players be too tired following relentless matches?

For crashing out…

Alan Shearer has spoken against the team’s youth, discouraged by their lack of maturity as a team and the average age of the players. His argument that the players simply aren’t ready to do battle against much more experienced teams is echoed by Rio Ferdinand, who regards the squad as a work in progress. Ferdinand doubts that the team has the capabilities to make it to the quarter-finals, but only time will tell how England’s age and experience will help, or hinder, their efforts.

Coming from the mouths of experienced pundits and players alike, these predictions are all valuable and sound feasible; England’s likelihood of success is a really tough one to call this time around. It’s said that England’s friendly against Germany on Easter Saturday should reveal more about Hodgson’s squad and its potential for victory, although anything could happen beneath the bright lights of France’s stadiums. The England squad must simply have the belief that it can succeed for the meantime, while their opportunity to justify that confidence will arrive in three short months. It’s time to place those bets…