England hasn’t won a major trophy since lifting the 1966 World Cup, but they have high hopes heading into EURO 2016.
Currently the bookies’ fourth favorite to win the title, could the Three Lions really pull it off?
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Manager Roy Hodgson has selected the youngest squad in the entire tournament, with an average age of just under 26-years-old. Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford is the youngest player at the EURO, just one of England’s seven players under the age of 23.
Hodgson is hoping the new guard of English football will lead the team to glory, as disappointing showings at the past two major tournaments have put the pressure on this young team.
Despite the inexperience in the side, England should be confident heading into the EURO. The Three Lions were the only side to finish qualifying with a perfect record, taking ten wins from ten matches while compiling a +28 goal differential.
Drawn into Group B with Wales, Russia, and Slovakia, England should advance and are favorites to win the group. The key match in the opening round will be against Wales, England’s neighbor and fierce rival. With emotions running high, Hodgson needs to make sure his young players keep their cool and don’t pick up foolish bookings or a sending off that could cost the team in matches to come.
The strongest position on the pitch for England is their striker partnership of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, the Premier League’s two leading scorers from last season. With Kane making his first major tournament appearance and Vardy possibly looking to earn a big-money transfer, both will be keen to put in top performances in France.
Despite all the youth, Wayne Rooney may just be the X-factor in Roy Hodgson’s side. England’s oldest player, Rooney has been written off by many as he enters what will likely be his final tournament for the national team. Yes, Rooney is no longer the elite striker he once was, but he is still the nation’s captain and all-time leading scorer. Hodgson is going to give Rooney minutes, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he scores a big goal (or two) for his country.
Should England win their group, they would face a third-place side in the round of 16. That would allow them to avoid a top side until the quarterfinals, giving the Three Lions one of the easiest paths to make a deep run. The people of England have been waiting for the future, and that future is here now. The team has enough talent to put in a real fight for the title, with that fight starting Saturday against Russia.