England will kick off their Euro campaign against France in Donetsk today. It will be a chance for Roy Hodgson to silence his doubters who felt that Harry Redknapp should have been appointed England manager. France are on a run of 21 games undefeated and will start the game as favourites. There are question marks about the French defense but they will be relying on the strength of their attacking trio of Nasri, Benzema and Ribery. The line-up for England appears to be settled on and is as above. There are some talking points about the starting eleven.
- John Terry will start on the right side of defense compared to his favoured left side. He has struggled in the past when playing on his less favoured side, most recently in the Liverpool v Chelsea game where Andy Carroll dominated the game.
- Danny Welbeck will lead the line, winning the strikers position ahead of Andy Carroll. In the ITV preview of the Spain v Italy match, pundit Patrick Vieria was asked who he would prefer to face out of the two. He claimed Welbeck would be an easier player for Mexes and Rami to defend against. His thoughts were that Carroll offered a more physical approach that could unsettle the two French centre backs. But Welbeck appears to have won Hodgson’s favour for his good interplay with the midfielders and his ability to make intelligent runs off the ball.
- Steward Downing and James Milner to start on the wings more to add to the defensive structure of the side compared to their ability to attack the French. Both of them have good engines and are good at tracking back, something that Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlane are not as good at.
- Ashley Young to act as link man between midfield and attack. He may be given a free role to drift in between the lines and try to make runs off Welbeck to attack the French goal. He will also be vital to England’s counter attacks.
- It remains to be seen the role that Gerrard will play. With Young starting ahead of him he will need to curb his attacking instincts as not to compromise the shape of the team. One criticism often thrown at Gerrard is that he can often run around the pitch in a seemly mindless manner in an attempt to turn a match around.
- Scott Parker’s role as the holding midfielder will be vital. Hopefully concerns about his fitness will not affect his performance. He will be charged with breaking up the French play and distributing the ball to other players.
- The full backs will also be busy and the battle between Ribery and Glen Johnson could be vital. Johnson is not the best right back in the world and does like to get forward. He has to make sure he doesn’t leave too much room for Ribery to exploit. Another reason why Milner could be included is he can offer defensive cover if Johnson makes a surge up field.
- With this line-up England will look to contain France and force them to play through the middle of them instead of using their flanks. They will also be looking to counter attack them when possible. They will have watched the Ireland v Croatia match and noted how important it is to settle into the game quickly as it will be tough to recover against a side who seemly have a better midfield. Ireland gave away an early goal and never recovered.