So its six out of six for England in their Euro 2016 qualification campaign. They have actually gone the whole season unbeaten as an England team – though lets be honest they could have lost all the friendlies as far as I am concerned – the competitive matches are the key and credit where credits due, Roy’s boys have done the business and you cannot really ask for more than that. They are 99% qualified for the tournament next summer (if they can’t get the required points from home games against Switzerland and Estonia with away matches against San Marino and Lithuania – then I will eat any hat offered to me) so full steam ahead to France I say. As with all England teams criticism is still rife mind – have they actually progressed from the debacle of Brazil 2014 is the question being asked? Personally I’d say yes. One thing for sure the manager has learned to some extent. I think he was fully aware he was very lucky to keep his job after the World Cup and has set about progressing along a squad with potential and young talent so he can mould them into real challengers for the major competitions. On occasions team selections and tactics (especially in the friendlies where he has not taken as much opportunity to experiment) have been baffling and there have been genuine concerns about how his teams have played, but when it has mattered he has generally got it right hence the 6 and 0. His constant critics will say that the opposition has not been up to much in those games, and whilst I agree that most of the matches have been against below average teams, you can only beat what is put in front of you and the fact is people have to realise England are no great shakes as we stand and need to improve markedly anyway and I’m sure Hodgson is very aware of the fact. Also I’m sure there a few other teams around Europe who would love to have the record the Three Lions have at the moment in this qualification stage. The real test will come when they get to France next June and Roy will need to know exactly what his best team is and have contingencies in place ready if changes need to be made as the knives will be out. He himself knows full well another failure will mean the end of his England journey, but some kind of success which shows real progress may give him the opportunity to take on a squad full of potential at the moment onto glory in further years.
RUSSIA FLATTERING TO DECEIVE AGAIN
A word of note to complaining England supporters – just spare a thought for fans of the Russian National Team who are most definitely not going to be too happy at the moment. A World Cup exit in the group phase after three lacklustre performances, the potential of maybe having the 2018 competition taken away because of the current FIFA scandal and now struggling for automatic qualification for next years European Championship, with it looking like the best they can hope for is a place in the playoffs. In their six matches so far their record reads won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2, most recently (last Sunday – 14th June) they were defeated at home to group leaders Austria (who also inflicted their other defeat in the reverse fixture) and the knives are now out for their manager, a certain, Fabio Capello and a sacking may not be far away. Like in the World Cup their performances throughout the group phase so far have lacked urgency with their wins only coming courtesy of a home banker against Liechtenstein and then an awarded 0-3 away win in Montenegro after their keeper was hit with an object thrown by the home fans, both sets of players brawling and a subsequent abandonment. They need to count themselves lucky that third place in the group still gives them that opportunity to qualify as it is expected that the team will be on an upward curve in the run to what will hopefully (for them) be a confirmed World Cup on home soil in 2018 and a prolonged run (maybe even to glory) is the preferred outcome. The pressure is now mounting as failure to qualify for Euro 2016 would be seen as unacceptable – and Fabio thought he was under pressure when he was England manger!!!!!!!
TRANSFER WINDOW IS WELL AND TRULY OPEN
Now the European football season has essentially ended (there are still leagues ongoing especially in Scandinavia) the transfers will start a flowing especially in this country. With an unusually early start for the Premier League (8th August) the majority of teams will want to try and secure their preferred targets sooner rather than later so they are a part of squads pre-season. With Mr Platini now relaxing the Financial Fair Play rules the bun fight is most definitely on – a very fascinating and maybe even the most money laden window to come.
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