England’s one great performance in a European Championship came in 1996, when as hosts, the team made their way to the semi-finals.
Will it be any different 20 years later? Let’s assess England’s chances in 2016…
Route to Euro 2016
England became the second team (after the hosts) to qualify by winning their first seven matches with three matches still to go. After winning another two games with ease, the only real test came in England’s last game against Slovenia.
A number of defensive errors saw England go a goal down just before the break. Two goals from Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere and a 50th international goal from Wayne Rooney capped a perfect run of qualifying.
England came third in 1968, when as world champions they lost a brutal semi-final match to Yugoslavia, in which Alan Mullery became the first England player to be sent off.
England enjoyed limited success in the Euros of 1988, 1992 and 2000. As the host nation in Euro ‘96, they reached the semi-final but were eliminated on penalties to Germany.
The Three Lions fell yet again in penalty shootouts to Portugal in 2004 and versus Italy in 2012.
Roy Hodgson took Switzerland to the World Cup in 1994, but had much less success with the United Arab Emirates and Finland during stints as national team manager between the years of 2002 and 2007.
Nine years after getting the sack by Blackburn Rovers, Hodgson returned to England as manager of Fulham. He famously guided the Cottagers away from relegation, before helping them finish seventh the following season. He then led them to the Europa League final in 2010.
After a six-month spell with Liverpool led to the sack, he helped bring stability to West Brom, before the English FA came calling.
Hodgson guided England to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, but the team suffered from a lack of pace and from an apparent inability to keep hold of the ball.
The 2014 World Cup was much worse, with a plodding England finishing bottom of their group after defeats at the hands of Uruguay and Italy.
Most important player
As a strong, assured, quick, ball-playing centre-back, Everton’s John Stones could be the player who puts an end to England’s sluggishness through the middle of the park to provide a useful link with the players in front.
A player who will want to redeem himself on international terms is Wayne Rooney. With the exception of Euro 2004, Rooney has struggled to replicate his club success when playing for England.
His seven goals in qualifying suggest that the captain can still perform, so his form may also be key to his country’s success at Euro 2016. As it stands though, he may not even be worth a place in the starting line-up…
Another hot talent in the Everton ranks is 22-year-old Ross Barkley. The attacking midfielder is a daring player with the ability to pick out superbly weighted passes that open up defences. Barkley may be a better option as a number 10 than Rooney, if the captain’s form doesn’t improve.
At 11/1 to win Euro 2016, England are fifth favourites in the tournament. Their performance in the last World Cup was abysmal, so it might be in England fans’ best interests to avoid getting their hopes too high.
England have some new stars coming through in the form of Wilshere and Stones et al. And these youngsters will be tested against the likes of Wales, Russia, and Slovakia in the group stages, before potentially progressing further.