Defensive game won't take England far at Euro | Soccer | CBC Sports

Euro CupDefensive game won't take England far at Euro

Posted: Monday, June 11, 2012 | 06:19 PM

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English defenders Joleon Lescott, right, and John Terry during the Euro 2012 match against France on June 11, 2012 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. (Franck Fife/AFP/GettyImages) English defenders Joleon Lescott, right, and John Terry during the Euro 2012 match against France on June 11, 2012 at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk. (Franck Fife/AFP/GettyImages)

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England was perfectly content to sit eight men across the top of the box against France and counter attack when they saw the opportunity. However, those tactics won't work when they come up against the more technically proficient clubs like Germany, Spain and the like.
Heading into most major tournaments it is not uncommon to find England saddled with comically high expectations.

You would think that after a half century of not winning anything that would temper those lofty goals some. But thanks to the 'we're the English, we invented football' mentality the Three Lions are constantly underperforming. That's not to say that they don't play to the best of their abilities. But, simply, that it is impossible to live up to those pie in the sky dreams when the reality of where England is compared to the rest of Europe is nowhere near where England sees itself compared to the rest of Europe.

This is why it was so strange to see that heading into the Euro 2012 that there was so little of that cockeyed optimism that infects the British press when it comes to football. In fact, there was very little belief that England had much chance at all. And why would they? Key injuries to Gareth Bale and Frank Lampard, a two game suspension to Wayne Rooney, coupled with the fact that Roy Hodgson only had six weeks to prepare his squad, is reason enough to quell anybody's dreams.

A team with no expectations
And that's how they played against France in their opening game of the Euro 2012 - a team with no expectations. England was perfectly content to sit eight men across the top of the box and counter attack when they saw the opportunity. There was no rush to excel, no need to dazzle - just simple, organized football.

England's defence time and time again would stifle the French attack as they turned the middle of the park into a marsh, giving France little or no room to slog through.  And, save for a Samir Nasri wonder strike, it worked.

The approach was reminiscent of Chelsea's recent Champions League run where they parked the bus and settled into defend for the full 90. They're the type of tactics that will work for England against teams in their group like Sweden and the Ukraine, who have few options in their attacking arsenal, but it's also one that won't work when they come up against the more technically proficient clubs like Germany, Spain and the like.

Too often on this day England was guilty of punting the ball up the pitch, leaving Ashley Young to mostly fend for himself. Card accumulation and injuries will mount though if they leave their defenders to carry the bulk of the load in this high pressure setup.

Can't rely on set pieces
It may be Hodgson's only solution until the return of Wayne Rooney for the final game of the group stage but for now, they can't rely on set piece goals to be their only means of attack. More skilled teams will find ways to break down their walls of defence and if they have no momentum going forward, they'll be going begging for any forward opportunities.

For now though, England will continue to play their no expectations football and for English fans that wil l surely mean a big ray of hope.

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