England v Russia: Euro 2016 – live!

Hello readers. Welcome to coverage of England’s opening match of the European Championship, a tournament they usually start by crunching their gears in the slapdash fashion of a learner driver who can’t get out of the test centre car park. Their first-game tournament record reads: drawn four, lost four. As records go, it’s about as scary as Puff the Magic Dragon on 7-inch. So, Roy Hodgson’s side could make history with a victory here, albeit a pretty underwhelming and – as far as the bookies are concerned – completely expected slice of history. The most intriguing thing about this England team is that no one really knows what the hell to expect from it. The only guarantee is that there will be a few shaky moments in defence and plenty of pace and energy going forward. And it’s that youthful drive that will likely be the key to victory. Russia have the second oldest squad at the tournament, with an average age of 29 years and four months; England have the youngest (25 years and 10 months). It’s wily old dads versus skilful young lads.

Hodgson has been talking a lot about fear. The England manager’s biggest challenge appears to be to get his squad to play without it. A good, confident start can do wonders for settling a team into a shape that they can carry through a tournament. If he can encourage his team to start at a decent tempo and to treat the ball like a cherished friend rather than an unpinned hand grenade he may save himself the hassle of having to tinker too much in later games. He has done an awful lot of that in the warmup matches, wrestling with his players and formations like a confused DIY dad trying to build a multi-layered shelving system. Three victories against Turkey, Australia and Portugal is not a bad record going into a tournament but the performances were patchy and some serious tweaks will have been made in training before this match. There is no clear pattern in how England play or how they create chances. Who is their standout player for instance? It’s all up for grabs. And that, at least, means there is a sense of excited optimism around England instead of the usual weary pessimism. That’s no bad thing.

Related: Russia’s old guard fight to reverse half-decade of decline at Euro 2016

Continue reading...

About the Author

Comments are closed.