UEFA 2012 European Championship Finals – The Draw

Friday 02 December 2011 (08.45 am)

Later today the draw for the UEFA 2012 European Championship Finals takes place in Kiev. Sixteen teams will be drawn into four Groups from four seeded pots. Each Group will be made up of a team from each Pot. From Pot 1 Poland have already been drawn in Group A and Ukraine in Group D for logistical reasons. This leaves Netherlands and Spain from Pot 1. Pot 2 contains England, Germany, Italy and Russia. Pot 3 consists of Croatia, Greece, Portugal and Sweden, with Pot 4 made up of the Czech Republic, Denmark, France and Republic of Ireland.

This morning the various forms of media will be highlighting the best and worst case draws that England could finds themselves with. For instance the BBC see the best case scenario as being drawn with Poland, Greece and Czech Republic with the worst case scenario would see England in with Spain, Portugal and France. To me it makes no real difference, as if you are going to win a tournament you have to play and beat the best teams irrespective of what stage you play them at.

Rest assured though that Signor Capello has already got his excuses in early as he has been banging on about how tired the players will be since the 2-2 draw with Switzerland back in June this year. However, for now the tournament is 6 months away, but tonight the pressure will be cranked up slightly as The Three Lions will know who they will be facing come June 2012.

Friday 02 December 2011 (7.00 pm)

Group A: Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic.

Group B: Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal.

Group C: Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Croatia.

Group D: Ukraine, Sweden, France, England.


Well it could have been worse and to use that football cliché, ‘on paper’ we should qualify, but this is England we are talking about! The Group featuring Sweden, France and Ukraine will bring back memories of Euro ’92 when England were also paired with the Swedes (who were the host nation), the French and the Danes. England under Graham Taylor finished bottom of the Group, with 0-0 draws with both Denmark and France and then a 2-1 defeat to Sweden. England with a team including Tony Daley, Andy Sinton and Carlton Palmer went ahead in the fourth minute through a David Platt goal. However, strikes from Eriksson and Tomas Brolin, ensured the hosts progressed and condemned The Three Lions to an early plane home.

England has also further tournament experience with the French. At Euro 2004 in Portugal, England opened their Group campaign against France. Three points seemed in the bag as on 90 minutes, as England was leading with a first half Frank Lampard goal. However, Zinedine Zidane had other ideas and scored twice on 91 and 93 minutes to snatch victory…sacré bleu!

So history certainly isn’t on England’s side. For now, lets just park it for 6 months. Que sera sera….

2010/11: ECQ Group G – England v Switzerland (Wembley)

Sometimes you just know with England that it is not going to be easy. You get that sick feeling in the gut. A leisurely late afternoon on a sunny Saturday sat on the sofa in front of the television should have ensued for me as England took on Switzerland at Wembley, but it just wasn’t to be. Yet again it was one of those occasions when watching the national team is a disappointment.

After the tempo England displayed in their last fixtures against Ghana and Wales, you hoped that a ‘same again’ approach would be evident in securing the three points. However, it was obvious from the opening exchanges that this was not to be. The young Swiss team buzzed around and the English played short passes to each other, often without pace and usually in a backward direction. My stomach ached after 32 minutes as a floated free-kick from Barnetta eluded first Ferdinand and left Hart diving in vain as the ball crept in. A knife was twisted further into the gut just three minutes later as the two-man wall of Walcott and Wilshere parted to allow another Barnetta free-kick to embarrass Hart at his near post. A crazy five minutes was completed when Wilshire driving forward, was brought down by Djourou. Lampard put in the resulting penalty to become England’s leading scorer from the spot and put the Lions back in the game. 2-1 down at half-time, things could only get better – couldn’t they?

Well it all started so well. Ashley Young replaced Lampard for the second half and within six minutes the Villa man had levelled with a crisp finish. However, that really was about it for England. Having got back into the game, the fizz went out of the home team and they reverted to the lacklustre display of the first half. Having said that, Darren Bent had a fantastic chance to win the game but lazily blazed over the bar. As the final ten minutes were played out, the Swiss kept hold of the ball and England looked devoid of ideas once more. In the final minute of time added on Downing had a chance to win it, but only found the side netting. In truth that would have been cruel on Switzerland. England now look nervously to the evening game in Montenegro, where if the home team beat Bulgaria they will lead Group G by two points and leave England once more having work to do to qualify for the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament.

As if the 2-2 draw wasn’t enough to endure, there was then the post match Capello interview. Three years of the Italian and interviews which are still senseless and on the occasions of a poor result, full of excuses. Gabriel Clarke pounced on the limp offering from Capello that the England players were tired, with a riposte that the Swiss players didn’t looked tired and that if we qualify, twelve months hence the issue of “tiredness” does not bode well for England. As ever, more incomprehensible words from the England manager and the moment was gone. On the box, “Britain’s Got Talent” Final was up next. What had gone before had shown, England currently doesn’t have talent.

2010/11: The England Job – runners and riders

When new football season kicks off in August 2012, England will have hosted the Olympic Games and the European Championships in Poland/Ukraine will be a distant memory. What we also know is that England will have a new International Manager. Now assuming that England qualify for the tournament and Capello isn’t sacked before then, the highest paid International Manager will step down from the job in 2012. In all likelihood and without wishing to be defeatist, that will be without England taking the European crown in 2012.

Already we have seen “candidates” throw their hat into the ring and there seems an inevitability that the next incumbent will be English. My concern about anybody declaring their hand this early is with regard to their focus on their current role. If a manager is thinking about another job elsewhere, even in two years time, it must act as a distraction. As a Chairman or a fan, I would be worried that any uncertainty would spread through the club and translate to the players. Would this for instance affect players signing for a club, if they thought the manager would be leaving? Some may argue that the possibility of the England job would spur on the manager to achieve even more at the club they are currently with. Unfortunately, as I’ve said I see it as a point of distraction.

So what of those English managers in the frame? Can somebody explain the role of Stuart Pearce? Is he genuinely being groomed as the next England manager? Pearce holds the position of Under 21 Manager and has had some success with the team. However, the images of Pearce beside Capello in South Africa and the inane “explanation” of the antics by Pearce, leave me with the impression that he is no more than a jester in Capello’s Commedia dell’Arte, and that the ex-Forest man will be gone once the Italian departs the stage.

Then we have Henry James Redknapp, who has managed Bournemnouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton and Tottenham. “Harry” has had some success along the way at these clubs, with the FA Cup win at Portsmouth his major prize and  taking Spurs into the Champions League this season. Is it coincidence that the clubs Redknapp has managed have gone on to suffer serious financial problems?   Add in the corruption allegations that have dogged him since the Panorama investigation of 2006 to the point of him being charged in January 2010 with two counts of cheating the public revenue and his suitability for the England job starts to look a little tatty around the edges. Although it never stopped El Tel……

Then we have Samuel Allardyce, who in his time has managed at Limerick, Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United, with his current posting at Blackburn Rovers. His darling of the media reputation as all things good about English mangers was built at Bolton. However, he has never won any of the major domestic honours as a manager and the style of football was and still is direct to say the least. Some will argue he did well with limited resources for the Trotters, but is that a major criteria for a future England Manager? Then like Mr Redknapp, “Big Sam” was featured in the football bribery expose by Panorama in 2006 and so a whiff of corruption also lingers around Mr Allardyce.

Roy Hodgson has not put his name forward, and that is the mark of this modest and respected football figure. He has International and European experience, although his detractors may argue he has got teams to Finals, but ultimately his teams haven’t  gone on to take the trophy. If he manages to work his magic at Anfield, how likely would Liverpool be to release him after the barren years on Merseyside?

That’s part of the joy of football – the speculation. Memo to all: gentleman, concentrate on the job in hand and see what you can achieve.

2012 what an interesting year it could be……