Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: England are simply daydream believers on European stage

One down, one more friendly to go: the phoney war is almost over and, like England, I’m off next week to the European Championships.

Tough time: New boss Roy Hodgson and his assistants will be hoping Andy Carroll and Ashley Young can spring a few surprises at Euro 2012PA

I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to nearly a month in Ukraine. I’ve completed my ‘anti-bribery module’ for the BBC. I’ve been warned of the dangers of walking the streets there: never lift a wallet that you think someone has accidentally dropped to return it to them — the custom is for you to be suddenly surrounded by his ‘associates’ claiming you’ve stolen money from it.

And there’s the artificial hiking of all prices — just like London for the Olympics — never mind the general corruption and racism of the country. Platini has a lot to answer for. Mind you, he also supported Russia for 2018 where it’s even worse.

I just hope that the quality of the football will be sufficiently distracting to make me feel as if the weeks are flying by.

England, in a ‘deft’ move that can only alienate the people of Ukraine, decided to base themselves in Poland and leave themselves facing ridiculous journeys to and from Donetsk and Kiev.

More logically, commentating on England, I’m centred in Kharkhiv, a city a short distance from the Russian border.

It means I’m also in a good position to follow the Group of Death — Germany, Holland, Portugal and Denmark. There has to be some compensation.

All logic tells me that the likely winners will come from Germany, Holland — whatever their weekend results — or Spain.

Normally, I’d have gone with the holders who play such wonderful football and hope to carry on their success from Vienna and Johannesburg.

But I wonder if David Villa will be fit and the form of Fernando Torres will be very important.

England? Well the one good thing about appointing Roy Hodgson is that no one is banging the drum about the squad’s ability to end all the pain and hurt since ’66.

I doubt I’ve ever accompanied England into a major tournament with so little expectation of success and that goes back over 20 years.

I’m not even certain they’ll make it out of the group and that should be a minimum requirement.

Hodgson played something of a B XI in Oslo — of the team on the pitch at the end of the game only Andy Carroll can expect to start against France.

I thought it was a decent enough display in the first half but went downhill rapidly after the break. Will a rigid 4-4-2 be good enough to cope with better opposition than Norway? I doubt it.

We’re likely to see something more akin to his first choice on Saturday against Belgium though, of course, there’s no point in playing Rooney, suspended for England’s first two group games. Carroll and Young, who played really well on Saturday night, look the likely strike partnership.

I worry that the new coach talks of Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004. Heaven help us if all we can rely on now is daydream believing!

Alright then, Spain to win again.

Belfast Telegraph

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