Group D: England Ã¢ÂÂ Struggling To Meet Low Expectations
The Back of the Net boys file their final Euro 2012 team preview. Last and possibly least, it's England, as previewed by Paul Watson
A low-key run-in to the competition and widespread ignorance of where Ukraine is have left pre-tournament expectations at an all-time low, meaning they could actually be met.
While England may not frequently win major tournaments, they have an impressive Rous Cup record and decades of moral victories. No other nation has such a proud record of luring other less scrupulous nations into beating them in a vulgar manners, such as by means of a penalty shootout or by three clear goals, one of which was disputable.
The Three Lions came closest to matching their 1966 World Cup triumph at Euro 96, when they lost in the semi-finals to Germany on penalties Ã¢ÂÂ an achievement only partially undermined by the subsequent revelation that the entire competition was an elaborate tax dodge pulled by then boss Terry Venables.
Tactically adept, humble and well versed in continental football, Hodgson is an odd choice as England manager. Most people, including top FA officials, expected Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp to take the role but a change of heart surprised everyone Ã¢ÂÂ not least Redknapp, who had already had 1,000 new business cards printed.
There was widespread speculation that RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs claims that he knew "a couple of fellas in the Ukraine" who could "get you anything you want" may have hindered rather than helped his application. Hodgson was unveiled and presented with a set of business cards with Harry Redknapp roughly crossed out and a training top with RedknappÃ¢ÂÂs initials on it turned inside out.
While more than 5,000 England fans attended the 2010 World Cup, forcing airlines to bring extra charter planes into action, just six have tickets to England vs France in Donetsk and the England SupportersÃ¢ÂÂ Trust has hired a Vauxhall Zafira for the occasion.
The poor turnout has been attributed to the cost of tickets, the fact Donetsk probably isnÃ¢ÂÂt a real place and media assertions that any England fan travelling to the championships is certain to be killed.
In the weeks leading up to previous competitions, England players have been regularly quoted declaring they will "bring back the trophy" or "make England proud". This time around, the squad members have been more modest in their guarantees. Leighton Baines has pledged that England "wonÃ¢ÂÂt be beaten by more than three goals in any game", Joe Hart is "pretty sure I wonÃ¢ÂÂt let one through my legs" and Scott Parker has boasted that "my luggage will be amongst the first off the carousel".
In a recent poll it was revealed that most fans would regard EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs campaign as a success if they were able to attend all their scheduled matches and board the correct flight back on June 20. A significant percentage of fans asserted that EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs priority should be to extend a proud 25-year run of no player fouling himself during an international fixture.
More from Back of the Net
Group A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Russia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Greece Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Czech Republic
Group B: Netherlands Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Germany Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark
Group C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Croatia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland
Group D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden