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Hodgson's England squad fails to strike fear

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, May 17, 2012 05:47 hrs
Wayne Rooney

​England fans assessing their team's tournament prospects usually trot out the weary prediction "We'll lose in the quarters on penalties" but many would see that as a major achievement at Euro 2012 after digesting Roy Hodgson's squad on Wednesday.

The lack of firepower given Wayne Rooney's two-match ban from the start of the finals and the inclusion of 20 million pound winger Stewart Downing, who did not score a Premier League goal this term, make worrying reading.

France will hardly be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing Liverpool's misfiring 35 million pound man Andy Carroll and Tottenham Hotspur's out of practice Jermain Defoe when they meet England in the Group D opener in Donetsk on June 11.



England spearhead Rooney will return for the June 19 game in the same city against co-hosts Ukraine after a clash with Sweden in Kiev four days earlier but will that be too late?

A closer look at England's attacking options suggests it could be.

The forward line will probably be led by Carroll and Defoe, their combination of strength and the Spurs' man's pace and lethal finishing when given a chance to play should be enough to shade the starting places over the inexperienced Danny Welbeck.

However, the England forward line's lack of goals at international level is alarming.

Carroll's return of 11 for Liverpool since his move from Newcastle United in January 2011 and just one for England has been well documented while Welbeck has netted 12 this season.

Defoe's ability is not in doubt, the lively striker has notched 15 international goals in 46 appearances, but he has the unusual distinction of never having played a full 90 minutes for his country.

He has also failed to feature regularly for his club under Harry Redknapp and has cut an increasingly frustrated figure on the Spurs sidelines.

A glance at England's attacking options from midfield is possibly more worrying.

Liverpool left winger Downing failed to hit the target in the league in his debut year at Anfield and also came up short in his primary role of supplying crosses and creating chances.

Uncapped Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's inclusion is a reminder of former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson picking the untried but promising 17-year-old Theo Walcott for the 2006 World Cup only to ignore him through the tournament.

The latest Arsenal prodigy has shown promise this season, enough to put him ahead of Tottenham's Aaron Lennon in the pecking order, and Oxlade-Chamberlain said he was "buzzing" at the thought of representing his country.

He will probably get his opportunity in the warm-up friendlies against Belgium and Norway.

"I think I play with no fear, I run at players regardless of who they are and try to make a difference... I will just try and make things happen," he told the Arsenal website (www.arsenal.com).

Manchester City winger James Milner has had a fairly subdued season despite picking up a Premier League winner's medal, so the bulk of the attacking thrust from midfield will fall to old timers Frank Lampard and captain Steven Gerrard.

The pair have 180 caps between them, scoring a joint total of 42 goals, but will need the support of Manchester United wide man Ashley Young, who has been in good form in 2012 despite accusations of "diving".

Arsenal speedster Walcott has shown occasional flashes of brilliance in recent months but Hodgson will be hoping for an improved final ball from a player whose runs all too often come to nothing.

Walcott is still dining out on his hat-trick in England's World Cup qualifying victory over Croatia four years ago - still his only international goals - and if England are to make any impression in Poland and Ukraine he and his team mates need to rediscover the verve and ambition they showed that night.

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