With Euro 2016 less than three months away, Roy Hodgson has begun formulating his plans for the upcoming tournament in France by selecting a 23-man squad ahead of the upcoming international friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands.
Facing two of the strongest sides in Europe may be considered a baptism of fire, but not only does it provide the Three Lions with the type of competitive matches that they did not experience during a relatively straightforward qualifying campaign, but also offers a good barometer of where England stand in terms of matching their strengths against two strong footballing nations.
The training camp and subsequent friendlies at the end of this month provides the players with the opportunity to stake their claim for a place on the plane to France this summer, with Hodgson keen to see the development of certain individuals and whether they can transfer their excellent club form onto the international stage.
England may be among the darkhorses with Betway to win Euro 2016, but the next few months of preparation may be a true indication as to whether Hodgson and his players have the desire, quality and winning mentality to win their first ever European Championship.
Hodgson has overseen a whole host of Premier League fixtures since the last international break to assess the condition and form of players that has in mind for Euro 2016, along with spotting others who deserve an opportunity to represent their country.
It has been four months since the England national team got together, when a rather disappointing 2-0 defeat in Spain was followed by an excellent win against France at Wembley by the same scoreline. The game against Didier Deschamps’ side was, however, marred by the tragic events in Paris just days before the friendly was due to be played, and it was great credit to France as a whole that the match went ahead amidst such difficult circumstances.
However, both games painted contrasting pictures of what the future holds for England, and with two more challenging fixtures on the horizon, it remains to be seen how Hodgson and his squad are able to compete against the level of quality that many believe is beyond England’s capabilities.
Danny Drinkwater’s inclusion has certainly been well received by a nation who have been shocked and overwhelmed by the achievements of Leicester City who are edging ever closer to the Premier League title; it symbolises a meteoric rise to prominence for Drinkwater who, alongside international team-mate Jamie Vardy, has been outstanding and a pivotal part of the Foxes’ wonderful story that looks set to receive a fairytale ending.
Daniel Sturridge has also been recalled into the England fold despite an injury-ravaged season, and he is joined by Danny Welbeck who has also spent lengthy periods on the sidelines. The inclusion of Jack Butland, John Stones, Ross Barkley, Dele Alli and Eric Dier reflects Hodgson’s willingness and determination to give real talent a chance to shine on the international stage for England, and while fans can follow their progress and bet on them to succeed via Euro 2016 coverage at Betway.com, they will hope to show more glimpses of what they could offer during the summer.
It is the greatest advantage of playing international friendlies, and while they may not always be the best spectacles, these games should be used to experiment with players who deserve a chance to wear the England shirt and different tactics to try something new; Hodgson, like any other manager, cares about results, but friendlies are ultimately designed to explore other options in terms of players and systems without the threat of dropping points or exiting a major tournament.
Hodgson was never going to satisfy everyone with the 23-man squad he has selected for the upcoming friendlies, but fans, pundits and journalists have already begun to make cases for who should and should not have been picked.
West Ham fans have been the most vociferous in their appeals to Hodgson to consider the likes of Mark Noble, Aaron Cresswell and Michail Antonio who have been hugely impressive for West Ham who not only have a real shot at FA Cup glory, but are also firmly in contention for a potential top four finish. Antonio, in particular, may feel aggrieved to have missed out ahead of Theo Walcott who has endured an indifferent season for Arsenal and has spent a number of games on the bench.
Scott Dann can also consider himself unfortunate to have missed out of a chance to represent his country, with the centre-back enjoying another excellent season at the heart of the Crystal Palace defend; he may have got the nod over Phil Jagielka who has been affected by injuries, but Hodgson has placed his trust in players that have served him well in the past, even if they are not enjoying the best season at domestic level for their respective clubs.