The 2016 UEFA European Championships in France will include four “Home Nations” this summer. With a matter of days to go until the kick-off of a month of footballing action, SillySeason takes a look at England, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In Part one of the two part series, it is England and Wales under examination, the two group B Rivals.
Roy Hodgson’s youthful Three Lions squad will compete in Group B in the tournament, alongside Russia, Wales and Slovakia, and arrive in France with no fear, or regrets about previous competitions.
Having achieved ten victories out of ten games in their qualifying group, this young, dynamic team will be confident of erasing the frustrations of the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil, valuable lessons were learned off the back of the exit in the group stage.
Hodgson, who is now four-years into his job with the national side, having overseen two tournaments prior to the one on the horizon, employs either an adventurous 4-4-3 system, or an effective midfield diamond formation.
Such a system could be used to a worthwhile effect at the Finals, the Tottenham Hotspur energetic duo of Harry Kane and Dele Alli have made a difference to the way England go forward, while Leicester City’s terrier like forward, Jamie Vardy, could be played out wide, to suit Kane as the main striker.
Meanwhile, the dilemma that England face, is where to fit Wayne Rooney into the system. Now at the age of 30, the captain has featured in a deeper midfield role for his club, Manchester United, a position that he views himself in for the rest of his career.
Defensively, England have had issues to contend with in recent weeks, while Kyle Walker and Danny Rose are likely to command the two full-back roles, questions remain to which centre-back pairing Hodgson will go with for the Russia game on Saturday, June 11th.
Chris Smalling has improved in the role over the past season, for both Manchester United and his country, while Chelsea’s Gary Cahill remained a mainstay despite a difficult campaign at club level, and Everton’s starlet John Stones could also be in the frame, even at his tender age of 22.
SQUAD IN FULL:
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).
Wales will compete at a major international tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup after coming through their qualification group, which included Belgium and Bosnia.
Manager Chris Coleman changed his formation on a regular basis throughout the course of qualifying, but their favoured system to use in those games was 3-4-2-1, a system which worked well in the crucial fixtures against Cyprus, as well as Belgium.
Coleman has also set aside Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey as the two number ten’s – the pair play off one another to devastating results against opposition sides, and along with the three-man defence, Wales are likely to use the formation at the European Championships in France.
The system implemented during qualifying made them tough to break down, and Coleman will look towards Bale, who scored seven times in qualifying, and loves playing for his country, as Wales aim to get out of a group that contains Slovakia, England and Russia.
Yes, admittedly the Real Madrid man is without doubt the star of the show in the Wales set-up, but the likes of Premier League players, Ramsey, Wayne Hennessey, Ashley Williams and Joe Allen will also be vital in any success they achieve this summer.
Selection decisions are still needed to be made, as Joe Ledley’s fitness has Coleman sweating, the Crystal Palace man has returned from a broken leg, and any concern could open the door for Leicester’s title-winner, Andy King.
James Collins and James Chester will compete for defensive places alongside Williams and Ben Davies, and despite their talisman Bale, the lack of a proven out-and-out Premier League forward could cause a significant issue.
WALES SQUAD IN FULL:
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Daniel Ward (Liverpool), Owain Fon Williams (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)
Defenders: Ashley Williams (Swansea), James Chester (West Brom), Ben Davies (Tottenham), James Collins (West Ham), Chris Gunter (Reading), Neil Taylor (Swansea), Jazz Richards (Fulham)
Midfielders: Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (Liverpool), David Vaughan (Nottingham Forest), Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), David Edwards (Wolves), George Williams (Fulham), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Andy King (Leicester)
Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), David Cotterill (Birmingham City), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Simon Church (Aberdeen, on loan from Milton Keynes Dons), Sam Vokes (Burnley)