On Tuesday night, a 1-1 home draw against Estonia secured the Republic of Ireland a place at a major tournament for the first time in 10 years. Indeed, Euro 2012 will mark Ireland’s first appearance at a European Championship’s since 1988.
Yet, according to manager Giovanni Trapattoni, the Irish will not be there to make up the numbers. When asked whether or not his team could replicate the success of Greece at Euro 2004 answered, ‘Why not? It’s not a dream. We will need 100% commitment, but why not?’
Greece built their entire campaign in 2004 on an organised and committed defence and a strong squad work ethic. In a tournament of just 16 teams, anything is possible as the Greeks proved.
7 long months remain before the tournament begins, with preparation a fundamental precursor to any success that may follow. Some teams may be ravaged by injury while others will see their players coming into the tournament in a rich vein of form. Such factors will be crucial in who is successful.
However, just as Trapattoni feels Ireland are capable of replicating Greece, so should England, or Croatia, or Portugal. Those sides short of the level set by Spain, Holland and Germany at the last World Cup.
In international football terms, while it may be hard to accept, England are surely now what would be a mid table top flight side. What we must realise is that there is no shame in that, yes, if there was an international league we would be unlikely to win it facing the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland on a weekly basis. However, there is not, international competition remains in a cup format, and while it stays that way England should feel capable of winning Euro 2012.
After all, who expected Portsmouth, in a cup run that included a memorable victory over English champions Manchester United, to triumph in the FA Cup in 2008? And who expected Birmingham, who went on to be relegated, to triumph in the League Cup over Arsenal earlier this year?
Cup upsets are part of the very fabric of our game and with the fine margins at the top of today’s game, any side participating at Euro 2012 stands a chance, that is as long as they clearly understand the job at hand.
One question that must now be asked is how England should approach the tournament? Following their 1-0 victory over World and European champions Spain, could it be argued that England’s best approach is a counter attacking 4-5-1 cum 4-3-3?
England played with endeavour against Spain, with Scott Parker and Joleon Lescott tremendous in closing down the Spaniards at just the right times. Let’s not kid ourselves; the Spain side of last Saturday will become a completely different animal come next summer. However, if England are as organised as a team as last Saturday, it only ever takes a set piece to win a football match.
With Wayne Rooney suspended for the group stages, it is clear that England currently lack another truly world class striker. However, in the likes of Darren Bent, Jermaine Defoe, Danny Welbeck, Peter Crouch and Daniel Sturridge England clearly still have quality among their ranks.
The group stage draw will be crucial, with the possibility of drawing Spain, Portugal and France. On the other hand England could face Ukraine, Greece and Ireland. The comparative strengths of such groups is startling.
Regardless of the draw, if England can make it out of the group, stay injury free and play with commitment and tactical maturity, anything is possible.
This should not be taken as another story that because England beat Spain and Sweden they will win next summer. It is merely meant to remind those who already have Spain or Germany’s name on the trophy, England could win it, Ireland could win it, in fact anyone could win it.
Remember, the favourite may win the majority of the time, but as history proves, not all of the time.
Do you agree, is Euro 2012 wide open? Comment and follow me on Twitter @CamHumphries
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