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Frank Lampard right to blast media for negative Wayne Rooney fixation handicapping England’s 2014 World Cup bid

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Just like David Beckham before him Wayne Rooney is an England hero who refuses to be written off by the British media.

The truth is that Roy Hodgson’s men have been affected by the negative comment targeted at their biggest star by the newspapers, radio and television back home.

Frank Lampard revealed the resentment within the England camp for the negative media attention  when he said: “There has been a fixation with one player in every World Cup I’ve been involved in.

“It’s frustrating when you’re in a team group and that happens. There is a fixation on one player and rather than a debate. It becomes an agenda so I think we need to drop the agenda and look at the team, whoever plays.

“Rooney is determined at every tournament. A lot of furore has been built up around him but I see the same Wayne. He wants to play well and give everything for the team.

“It’s about a team performance. We didn’t win the other night, but the minute you start trying to focus on individuals again and again and again it can be detrimental. Behind closed doors, we’re trying to win games.”

Rooney Facebook statement

No doubt Rooney will attract even more criticism for lashing out at the media abuse he has received from some so-called experts with a strongly worded statement on Facebook today that reads:
“Sometimes wonder what the press are getting at. I said from the start I want to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready for these World Cup games and as part of that I was doing extra training a week before the squad joined up. That’s exactly what I did yesterday, my own extra training because that’s what I wanted to do.”

The truth is that Rooney’s contribution in the narrow 2-1 defeat by Italy in their opening Group B match was a vital part of a performance Gary Neville has described as  “the best England have played for 16 years.”
In my view there  is absolutely zero chance of Hodgson not sticking with Rooney in the must not lose showdown with Uruguay on Thursday. How delicious will it be for the Manchester United star if he makes the critics eat their words when it really counts.

Group D

Peerless Pirlo king of the jungle

In England’s showdown with Italy it was another masterclass from the peerless Pirlo. The 35 year old the undisputed king of the jungle in the Amazon.

Italy 2-1 England
Raheem Sterling was England’s star man in a positive display by Roy’s boys.
And Daniel Sturridge gave the Three Lions hope with his first World Cup goal.
But Italy were good value for their 2-1 win.


England had their chances and this was a big improvement on previous displays.
Meantime the biggest surprise saw Costa Rica reverse a 1-nil half time deficit.
Costa Rica 3-1 Uruguay
Three goals in the second half stunned Uruguay.
And that makes Thursday’s England-Uruguay match a must not lose game for both sides.

On what we’ve seen so far England definitely have the quality to beat Uruguay.
So long as they don’t lose on Thursday England can still quality for the knockout stages.

 

FIFA World Cup | humiliation for England in Brazil – why Roy’s boys are good enough to make amends with Rooney on board

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Hodgson_300

England’s World Cup embarrassment in Brazil has already hit rock bottom   . . . but Roy Hodgson’s men have a golden opportunity to make amends for what happened 64 years ago when the side skippered by Billy Wright crashed to an infamous 1-0 defeat by the USA.

The truth is that for once the huge weight of expectation will be less of a burden for Team England, who arrived in Rio in 1950 with a reputation as the “Kings of Football”, writes JOHN GUBBA.

Ever since our solitary triumph in 1966 and heroic attempt to defend the trophy in 1970, expectations have invariably outweighed the strength of our challenge for the FIFA World Cup Trophy. This time around no one expects England to triumph. While Hodgson has assembled an England team with an exciting blend of youth and experience. 

Consequently, there is a glorious opportunity to restore lost pride. Not by winning the tournament, but by playing a style of football that will give us something to build on for the future.


This we can do if Hodgson has the strength of character to give youth a chance and make the right selections, starting with the opening match against Italy on Saturday.While the mass media play their predictable role of chipping away at morale, this time targeting Wayne Rooney for negative attention, Hodgson has shown his class by deflecting all the barbed comments and creating a team unity the likes of which we have not seen in the England camp for some years.

In Steven Gerrard the manager has  a skipper who has matured into the role he richly deserves and will inspire the outstanding kids around him as well as motivate the more senior players to do themselves justice.The media spotlight is on Rooney to deliver after his previous injury-hampered failures at the World Cup. And there are those who believe the hugely talented Ross Barkley is ready to push Wazza out of the starting line up. But the reality is that the rich seam of outstanding young talent will bring the best out of Rooney and the other established stars.

Too many times on the biggest stage England’s finest have frozen, overwhelmed by the fear of failure. But this time Gerrard and Rooney will revel in the spotlight because they are surrounded by an exciting crop of confident kids who will shine in the heat of Brazil.

In Hodgson we have the first English born manager since World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsey, one of the players on the receiving end of that 1950 humiliation by USA, who has relevant tournament experience at international level.

The former manager of Switzerland was not the people’s choice when he landed the top job ahead of Harry Redknapp. But there has never been any doubt in my mind that Hodgson will restore pride in Team England and there is a tangible sense of togetherness about the squad that arrived in Brazil.

To restore lost pride will be just as important as winning matches in Brazil because we have become a second tier nation accustomed to humiliation and under achievement.

by John GubbaSimply getting out of a group that includes Uruguay, Costa Rica and an opening match against Italy would be an outstanding result.Even if we fail to qualify for the latter stages, how satisfying will it be to see hugely talented youngsters like Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Barclay scare the living daylights out of Italy? The odds are that England will again fail to beat the Italians when the two sides meet in the Amazonian jungle on Saturday night. But give the kids a chance and play to our full potential and the nation will thank Hodgson for doing the right thing.

Mark my words, if Gerrard, Rooney and the kids kick off  their Italian job with a victory then World Cup fever will sweep through England like wildfire and the shame of 1950 in Belo Horizonte will be well and truly buried in the sands of time. 

Don’t call me Dean! How Daniel Sturridge is keeping up the family goal-scoring tradition and believes in Wayne Rooney partnership

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Remember that name: Daniel Sturridge has heart set on being a World Cup hero for England

Remember that name: Daniel Sturridge has heart set on being a World Cup hero for England

Two decades on from the spectacular goalscoring exploits of Dean Sturridge, his nephew Daniel is enjoying the limelight with both Liverpool and England – and the ace marksmen is hellbent on making the world remember his name at next summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

by John GubbaI must admit that like many football experts above a certain age I have been guilty of calling the 2013 version of the Sturridge goal machine by his uncle’s name.

Dean Sturridge made his mark when he topped scored  with 20 goals to help Derby County win promotion to the Premier League in 1995/1996. It was a spectacular season for the Rams that launched Sturridge – who went on to complete 10 years with Derby – onto the biggest stage in domestic football.

“People still call me Dean now,” says the current England ace Daniel, adding: ”I’ll say ‘wait a minute I’m Daniel’.

The 24-year-old has found a new lease of life since moving to Liverpool, scoring 21 goals in 29 games since he has been regularly accommodated in the central striker role he has always enjoyed the most. Initially benefitting from the 10-match ban for Luis Suarez, Sturridge has  since formed what he describes as a “telepathic” partnership with the world class Uruguayan hitman.

If Sturridge can forge a similar understanding for England with Wayne Rooney, the sky is the limit for the hotshot who showed no lack of ambition when he decalred as a 19 year old at Chelsea: ”If a player said he didn’t want to be one of the greats in football, then he would be lying because everyone wants to make a stamp on football.”

“It can definitely be as good,” says Sturridge of his partnership with the Manchester United striker. ”Wazza is a world-class player and it is easy to play with him. I enjoy playing with him. We complement each other’s game. In training, it is almost like we don’t need to work on things. We know where we are, where team-mates are.”

On recent form England will go to Brazil as no hopers. But as all top managers will tell you, you always have the ability to beat the best when you have top strikers. In Sturridge and Rooney, Roy Hodgson’s men potentially have one of the most lethal strike forces in world football. And if they do hit it off next summer, the days of people getting Daniel Sturridge’s name wrong will definitely be a thing of the past.

Why Daniel is often called Dean Sturridge

Why Daniel is often called Dean Sturridge

Becks retirement: Iconic football legend David Beckham deserves his special place in history of the beautiful game

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BY JOHN GUBBA

There is no player in the history of the game who has done more to promote English football than David Beckham. And his retirement at the age of 38 will trigger tributes from around the world because his contribution to the sport has been unique.

Icon, celebrity, legend, superstar, ambassador. No one can bend it like Beckham. And no-one has given back so much to the beautiful game.

He may not be the greatest footballer who ever played the game. But Becks represents something special. Throughout his career he has made the most of his incredible talent, consistently revelled in proving the critics wrong when they have tried to write him off and brought glamour, dignity and pride to representing his country and a glittering array of the world’s most famous football clubs.

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At Old Trafford he starred in the team that won an unprecedented Treble in 1999. But when Manchester United sold him to Real Madrid in 2003 after his infamous fall-out with his mentor and father-figure Sir Alex Ferguson, Becks was being outshone by a galaxy of stars.

It has been the same in Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris and during his long and illustrious England career. But there is no footballer who has worked harder to make the most of his god given talent, to defy the critics who regularly tried to write him off or to win over the fans who did not always love him.

There is no greater measure of the man than the way he turned around the obscene hatred he endured after being sent off in the 1998 World Cup for petulantly kicking out in that epic quarter-final defeat by Argentina.

The way he singled-handedly dragged England to the 2002 World Cup with an unbelievable performance in the decisive qualifying match against Greece was the stuff of legend, crowned by his remarkable injury time free-kick that completed the journey from villain of 98 to glorious hero.

Born on 2 May 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham made his name playing for his boyhood heroes Manchester United. As a youngster he attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session at FC Barcelona. After trials with Leyton Orient, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur, he became part of a famous group of youngsters who won the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May 1992.

He went on loan to Preston in 1994/95 before returning to Old Trafford and making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in a goal-less draw against Leeds United on 2 April 1995. At United he went on to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the European Champions League with United in that famous Treble-winning year of 1999.

In 2003 he signed for Real Madrid where he spent four years winning the La Liga championship in his final season before joining LA Galaxy. His five-year spell in America included a mid-season loan spell with AC Milan in 2009. He finally left the States to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 where he bows out at the top after winning the French League.

Beckham’s international career saw him win 115 caps for England between 1996 and 2009, including six years as captain. Twice runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2004 when his commercial earnings boosted his salary at Real Madrid.

Captain Rooney, Goldenballs on bench and Rio at the back spells a winning formula for Wenger’s United England

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Let’s be honest. It is hard to tackle Gary Lineker’s defeatist attitude when he declares: “England do not have an earthly of winning the World Cup.”

So how about thinking outside the box and doing something radical. Cue the professor of football, Frenchman Arsene Wenger, who champions the idea of building the national team around the country’s most successful team. Add the influence of England’s most loyal servant David Beckham, the leadership and vision of Wayne Rooney, the panache and style of the world’s best footballing defender Rio Ferdinand and the new crop of kids from Old Trafford.

The professor earned the respect of United fans and players when he saw red at Old Trafford

Respect – Professor won hearts of United fans when he saw red at OT

In other words let’s build the next England team around Manchester United – past and present – and put Wenger in charge to see if he can turn his vision into reality with the help of players who still know how to win trophies. No.2 Gary Neville will make sure the Frenchman does not neglect his defence – and Roy Hodgson can be the player liaison officer. During matches he can sit with the suits. Just don’t ask him to make any team talks because his Plan B is the same as his Plan A

Much that I admire Steven Gerrard, his leadership in Montenegro was undermined by a performance littered with sloppy mistakes. Like Frank Lampard his best days are behind him. But these golden oldies have an important supporting role to play on the bench along with Mr Golden Balls himself David Beckham.

Becks is back in the frontline with Champions League quarter-finalists Paris St-Germain. He’s the only English player still in the competition. And Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear he still thinks Beckham can deliver at the highest level by offering him another season’s contract that will take him up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Let’s remind Stuart Pearce what an idiot he was by leaving the former Manchester United star out of his Team GB squad for London 2012 and make him Wenger’s assistant player-manager. We all know that Wenger loves Becks and he struck up a friendship with the Essex boy when he invited him to train with Arsenal.

Becks is an admirer of England’s great Arsenal protege Jack Wilshere having watched him at close quarters in training. He knows the boy will be magical supporting frontmen Rooney and Danny Welbeck, in a midfield surrounded by Ashley Young, Tom Cleverly and Michael Carrick, the most consistent performer at Old Trafford this season.

Everyone can see that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are the future rocks at the back for England and even Roy Hodgson admits he got it wrong backing John Terry instead of Ferdinand. So how about Ferdinand and Smalling as centre backs with Jones pushing forward from the rightback berth. That leaves a space for Ashley Cole on the left. I am sure he can kiss and make up with his old pal Rio. Even the Chelsea man must have seen the tongue-in-cheek humour of that choc ice twitter jibe.

The goalkeeper has to be Joe Hart- an advocate of a United Manchester and good friends with Ferdinand and other players at Old Trafford – so there is no reason he will not fit into a United England. Former Reds keeper Ben Foster, meanwhile, is an outstanding deputy for the No.1 shirt.

So who will the captain be? I thought that was obvious. Rooney will revel in the role. Judging by the way he is starting to find his form again for England and the confidence boost he will receive from such a vote of confidence will bring out the best of a player yet to fulfil his true potential on the world stage.

It may be April Fool’s Day, but am I really joking here? Think about this formation and you tell me . . .

ENGLAND (4:1:3:1:1) – Hart; Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, A.Cole; Carrick; Cleverly, Wilshere, Young; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs: Foster, Baines, Cahill, Beckham, Lampard, Gerrard, Defoe. Manager: Wenger. Assistant: Neville

Rio Ferdinand heading for FIFA World Cup in Brazil but will Roy Hodgson be joining him there?

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BY JOHN GUBBA

First of all let me say I have huge respect for both Roy Ferdinand and the current England manager Roy Hodgson, whom I predicted in this column when he was appointed would restore pride in wearing the Three Lions. But like players, managers are prone to making mistakes. And Hodgson has been guilty of failing to use his common sense.

Ferdinand will be heading to Rio one way or another. The betting now is that it will be as a pundit, judging by the impact he has made on Al Jazeera and the fall-out of this latest saga. Whether or not Hodgson makes it there too, with or without the Manchester United defender in the England team, is likely to remain in doubt until October at least. And the shadow of Ferdinand will not go away until England qualify.

 It is typical of the media, especially because he plays for Manchester United, that  Ferdinand has been singled out as this week’s public enemy No.1 by an array of pundits, ex-players and headline hungry journalists. But this is not his fault and if Hodgson was on top of his job this ridiculous scenario would never have happened.  

Hodgson has done himself no favours by naievely walking into a media storm of his own making by the way he has handled his non-selection and subsequent flawed selection of the former England skipper. It was bad enough that the boss made a mess of things in the first place when he omitted Ferdinand in favour of John Terry at Euro 2012. But the re-selection fiasco that has preceded Tuesday night’s crucial showdown in Montenegro could have been so easily avoided with a simple phone call.

As Mark Lawrenson pointed out in the Mirror this morning  ”What does the England boss do all week? Are you telling me he could not have called Sir Alex Ferguson or Rio himself and said: “I’m planning to bring you back in the squad. Are there any issues with that?”

Sir Alex Ferguson’s support team at Carrington boasts a sophisticated sports science team that has worked wonders in helping to extend the careers of a succession of star players. The return to form and fitness of Ferdinand is further testimony to the value of a set-up second to none in the Premier League. And it is Hodgson’s job to know what is going on behind the scenes and not use guesswork.

If being England manager simply meant selecting a squad of names and pinning it to the notice board, it would be an easy job that most of us could do part-time. The game has moved on from the days when news of an England call-up was announced to the media before the players, or at least it should have done. Hodgson knew there were potential issues in selecting Ferdinand out of the blue after his public humiliation of the player last year. What is equally worrying is that he alienated Ferdinand in the first place, especially with England being so short of quality in central defence.

As Alan Hansen said in his column in the Daily Telegraph: “If you look at the Premier League this season, it is not surprising that England are so desperately short. The standard of defending has deteriorated to the lowest level I think I have ever seen.”

Managing a national team, especially superstars continually in the glare of media scrutiny, requires many skills, not least the ability to motivate, build team spirit and read situations correctly in order to avoid strength-sapping conflict. My belief is that Hodgson made the mistake of writing Ferdinand off when he alienated him in the summer and now that error of judgement has come back to haunt him. It is a measure of England’s desperate lack of quality at the back that we are still a long way short of replacing the formidable defensive partnership that Ferdinand and Terry once forged.

It was predictable that the media would criticise Ferdinand’s decision to travel to Qatar to sit in a TV studio on Friday night, when he could have been playing in the 8-0 thrashing of San Marino. But there is no way Rio would have made that trip if the medical experts back at Carrington thought it was putting his delicate back at risk. Meanwhile, the reality is that Ferdinand was only needed for the game in Montenegro and if Hodgson had done his homework and tried a lot harder to repair the damage he caused in the first place, maybe this could have happened.

What is indisputable is that Ferdinand has been outstanding for Manchester United this season. The statistics confirm he has been the best defender in the League. His career has been rejuvenated with the assistance of the medical support team who scientifically manage his training programme and advise the manager on the optimum time he should spend on the pitch. Hodgson should have been aware of this and in communication with the United throughout the season. No wonder Sir Alex and Ferdinand were taken by surprise when Hodgson announced his squad on March 14.

Great managers embrace sports science and understand the power of psychology, diplomacy and motivating their players to give everything for the common cause. If England fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup,  the way Hodgson has blundered his way through his man-management of key players will be called into question.

Whatever the result of Tuesday night’s crunch encounter in Montenegro with the side that currently tops England’s group, who makes it to Brazil will almost certainly remain in doubt until the final qualification matches are completed in October – and the ordeal will continue to the play-offs if England fail to top the group. My prediction is that England will make it to the World Cup. But if they do, let’s hope Hodgson has learned a few lessons and can avoid giving the media the excuse to undermine morale before the team gets on the pitch.

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand speaking on AlJazeera

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Michael Owen Announces Retirement From Football Tuesday 19th March 2013

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BY VISIONSPORT.TV

Michael Owen

Michael Owen

Michael Owen a former England striker has announced his retirement from football at the end of the season.

Debuting for Liverpool at only 17 years old, before his famous solo goal for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

Owen, 33, who scored 40 goals in 89 internationals, played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United and is now at Stoke. Including a hattrick against Germany in England’s famous 5-1 victory over their rivals in 2001.

He said: “It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire.

“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey I could only have dreamed of.”

He has scored 220 goals in his club career, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup (three times) and Uefa Cup. Owen was named European Footballer of the Year in 2001 – the first Englishman to achieve the accolade since Kevin Keegan in 1979.

“Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career,”

Beauty beat the beast as Wales crush England to retain Six Nations Championship – and Austin Healey weasels out of bet

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Alex Cuthbert scored both tries – source: images.icnetwork.co.uk via john on Pinterest

 

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Even as a proud Englishman I have to admit there was something quite beautiful about the way Wales demolished England this evening to retain the Six Nations Championship.

With the prize of the Grand Slam within their grasp England were outclassed by a team of Welsh dragons, who played with fire in their bellies and produced two beautiful tries to end comfortable winners.

Four penalties from Leigh Halfpenny and two glorious second half tries from Alex Cuthbert topped a classy performance by the home side, who only needed to win by seven points to ensure the title. Video highlights: Wales 30-3 England 

England coach Stuart Lancaster said he was “gutted” that his side failed to claim their first Grand Slam since 2003. But the truth was this was another case of stage fright by England, who have a habit of underachieving just when they are expected to flourish.

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For me it was painfully obvious from the start that England were relying on their size and strength to overpower the Welsh. But the home side, driven forward by a passionate crowd at the Millenium Stadium, produced rugby that proved skill, flair and determination can still make a much bigger side look ordinary. Rarely have England played the type of expansive rugby that  fans would love to see. And as a purist who wants to see beauty conquer the beast this was a victory for the game of rugby, not just the Welsh nation.

AUSTIN HEALEY – source: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com via john on Pinterest

 The post-match talking point was the predictable decision by Austin Healey to  weasel out of his £1 bet with every member of the Welsh public. If everyone had taken him up on the bet that England would beat wales to win the Grand Slam – and many did – he could have lost as much as £3m.

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Roy’s boys have restored English pride but brilliant Germans are outstanding team at Euro 2012 and Ronaldo looks best in world

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Hodgson is shattering the myth that managing England is an impossible job

Hodgson is shattering the myth that managing England is an impossible job

BY JOHN GUBBA

As I wrote a week before the tournament started: “There is little doubt in my mind that the new England boss is going to restore pride in the top job. And that is just as important (as success) this time around.”

Not only has Roy Hodgson shattered the myth that managing England in the modern era is an impossible job, he has turned around a team with no direction and no hope into a confident squad with no fear and a fresh belief that nothing is impossible.

To claim a quarter-finals showdown with Italy at Euro 2012, Roy’s boys have confounded the critics. Only all-conquering Germany won more points in the Group stages. And in skipper Steven Gerrard England have been inspired by one of the stand-out players of the tournament.

Giving Gerrard the captain’s armband and playing him in a role best suited to his world class qualities has been the master selection that has laid the foundations for Hodgson’s renaissance. With the courage to give youth a chance in the shape of Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the coach has added an exciting blend of exuberance.

His tactical astuteness and ability to get his players to perform has made this England side unrecognisable from the bunch of strangers who looked out of their depth under Fabio Capello at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. With talisman Wayne Rooney restored to the side with his first tournament goal in eight years, there is an unmistakable sense of optimism in the England camp.

The reality is that England are still rank outsiders, with Germany lying in wait in the semi-finals if they do succeed in beating Italy on Sunday. Joachim Loew’s team have been  the outstanding team of Euro 2012 and on what we have seen so far look destined to win their first major tournament in 16 years.

Then of course, in the other half of the draw the favourites are the reigning World and European champions Spain. While my tip for the final is  Portugal, a highly under-rated  side led by  player of the tournament Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks hellbent on reclaiming the crown of world’s No.1 player from Lionel Messi.

For England to go all the way is still hard to imagine because let’s be honest Germany, Portugal and Spain all look like teams on a higher level. But one of the big attractions of the beautiful game is that anything is possible – as the Greeks proved in their Olympic year as recently as 2004.

 

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CLASSIC GOALS from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle

Welbeck’s brilliant winner knocked Sweden out of Euro 2012 and crowned a tactical triumph for Roy Hodgson

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Roy Hodgson is proving what a great decision the Football Association made when they appointed him as the new England manager.

With a quiet confidence Hodgson has given England belief, shape and versatility – and a thrilling victory over bogey team Sweden was all down to the tactical awareness of the new boss.

The truth is that Roy’s boys were having a nightmare when a double strike by Olof Mellberg at the start of the second half overturned a great opening strike by Andy Carroll.

But the England coach read the game magnificently when he sent on Theo Walcott. The Arsenal winger was the catalyst to a brilliant winning surge with the equaliser and the assist for a classic match winning strike by Danny Welbeck.

Hodgson’s skipper Steven Gerrard is revelling in the responsibility of wearing the armband. And his central midfield partner Scott Parker is a warrior who gives England something extra.

The truth is that England are an average team short on quality and talent. But Hodgson is a master at getting the best out of an ordinary group of players. And in a short period he has injected a winning balance of youth and team spirit into the national team.

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June 15th, 2012 at 9:14 pm