EURO 2012 PREVIEW: ENGLAND
As Euro 2012 approaches, we continue our assessment of those sides featuring Chelsea players with an in-depth look at Roy Hodgson's England.
For the first time in many years, England head into a major tournament with very little expectation weighing on their shoulders, and it's not surprising taking recent events into account.
As if being drawn in a group with France, Sweden and joint hosts Ukraine wasn't difficult enough, the Chelsea duo Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill have now joined Gareth Barry on an ever-expanding list of injured players who will miss the tournament. With Wayne Rooney already suspended for the first two matches, it really does look an uphill task.
Both John Terry and Ashley Cole, fresh from success in the Champions League, will be expecting to start the first match against France, but perhaps the biggest question mark hangs over who will lead the line in the absence of Rooney. Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck appear to be the most likely options, and England's progression could hinge on who is given the nod.
Keeping key players such asTerry, Cole and Steven Gerrard fit is now a must, while on a more positive note, the youngsters in the squad will make their bow on the big stage with far less pressure on their shoulders than usual.
The general consensus is that Roy Hodgson will play a defensive game which is reliant on the pace of Ashley Young and Theo Walcott on the break. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed for Arsenal and could be given an opportunity to explode onto the scene in a similar way to that of Michael Owen at the 1998 World Cup, while Jermain Defoe is a proven goalscorer.
Historically, England haven't fared well in the competition. Having failed to qualify for the 2008 tournament, they were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by Portugal four years earlier, while their best showing was back in 1996 when they reached the semi-finals on home soil before losing to Germany on penalties.
Monday 11 June: France v England, kick-off 5pm
Friday 15 June: Sweden v England, kick-off 7.45pm
Tuesday 19 June: England v Ukraine, kick-off, 7.45pm