Midfield crisis, defensive threat for Roy's England

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Midfield crisis, defensive threat for Roy's England
Krakow, Jun 7: Roy Hodgson's England may be a mix of young and veteran stars but their chances in Europe's biggest stage looks slim with injuries to key players Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and recently Chelsea defender Gary Cahill fractured his jaw leaving the three lions weak at the back.

England have more to worry at the back after ignoring Manchester United veteran Rio Ferdinand, who also missed the World Cup two years ago due to injury and league winner Micah Richards was left out.

Liverpool right back Martin Kelly made the cut into the ever changing England's 23-man squad replacing the Champions league winner Cahill. But England are not short of defensive options with Everton's Phil Jagielka, Premier League winner Joleon Lescott and youngster Phil Jones as first choice defenders.

Despite all the fuss about Rio's snub, Hodgson is yet to give a clear-cut reason for United defender's absence. Another blow for the newly appointed England manager is the injury scare to former captain John Terry, who was seen limping during the win against Belgium in Wembley.

But the major blow for Hodgson came after their experienced mid-field duo Lampard and Barry were ruled out of the tournament. Both players have had a fantastic season. Barry's defensive role at Man City helped the blues clinch the title after a 34-year drought while Lampard's never-die attitude helped Chelsea crawl through to claim their first-ever European glory.

England's suffering remains constant after failing into qualify for the Euro's in 2008 with former England manager Steve Mclaren and crashing out of the 2010 World Cup under Italian boss Fabio Capello. Playing in the best football league in the world, English players never looked formidable as a team.

The former Liverpool manager has a tough task ahead when they take on former World and European champions France in their opening clash at Donbass Arena in Donetsk on June 11.

The only positive sign for England is its front-line. A combination of strong, tall and pacey attackers along with flying wingers could be the only threat England could pose.

First choice striker Wayne Rooney is serving a two-match ban while Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck have struck good form recently. The towering youngsters can leave any defence shaky in the air as well as ignite goal-scoring chances.

Tottenham's Jermain Defoe has had a quiet season but can out-run opponents with lightning pace in and around the penalty area. Unlike their defence, Hodgson has plenty to choose when it comes to wingers flying across flanks. Arsenal duo Theo Walcott and Alex Chamberlian have been impressive during the previous season.

Apart from the Gunners quicks, Hodgson could finalise with skipper Steven Gerard and Scott Parker as their best mid-field combination, supported by Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and James Milner on the flanks, the former Aston Villa trio can out-pace opponents on either sides.

But the biggest dilemma of all would definitely be the back four, especially at the heart of England's defence. Lescott could partner Terry in the center while Liverpool's Glen Johnson and Chelsea's Ashley Cole would be Hodgson's first choice at right back and left back respectively. But cover for the defence is not-so experienced with Kelly and Jones while Everton's defensive duo of Jagielka and rising star Leigton Baines provide strength and experience.

Besides France, England take on co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden in Group D. Their biggest threat being France, England cannot take their other opponents lightly.

The Swedish, led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic have won a series of friendlies prior to their Euros 2012 campaign. Though recent wins against Norway and Belgium proved vital, winning with a narrow 1-goal margin would not be sufficient in the European championships. The real test for Hodgson's men will be against France, not to forget smaller teams can pose similar threats like Algeria and United States did during the World Cup in 2010.

OneIndia News

Story first published: Thursday, June 7, 2012, 18:57 [IST]
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