While the English Premier
League has become the richest and most widely viewed around the
world, the national side have punched below their weight for
years but there have been hints at Euro 2012 that this may be
Under new manager Roy Hodgson, England have started to play
like a very united club side, with no prima donnas, an evident
team spirit and a steely determination to overcome the odds.
They showed that in their Group D victories over Sweden last
week, when they recovered to win 3-2, and against co-hosts
Ukraine on Monday when a 1-0 scoreline in the Donbass Arena
sealed top spot and a quarter-final with Italy in Kiev on
The conundrum at the heart of the English game is that the
Premier League, which last week sealed a new three-year three
billion-pound TV contract to run from 2013, has
attracted the best overseas players which, in turn, is said to
limit opportunities for English players at the highest level.
English clubs continue to do well in European competition -
Chelsea are the European champions - but in their three
appearances at these finals, including the opening 1-1 draw with
France, the wheel appears to have turned full circle.
England's players have battled and supported each other like
they do at their clubs - just as Hodgson asked them to when he
arrived in Ukraine - and under the urbane and diplomatic veteran
coach they actually look as if they are enjoying being here.
As Hodgson said after beating Ukraine: "It has been a
really good tournament for us and we have enjoyed every minute
of it. It's not a question of expectations any more, we just
want to keep going and enjoy it for as long as we can."
The mood around England is also very different from the one
at the World Cup in South Africa under the disciplinarian
Italian Fabio Capello two years ago.
Wayne Rooney, back from a two-game suspension to score the
winner against Ukraine with his first tournament goal for eight
years, was among those expanding on the change.
"We know our qualities, and what we are capable of and we
are enjoying being here and working together as a team," he
"We've worked hard and done a lot of tactical play in
training. We are becoming harder to beat and I don't think any
team will fancy playing us."
Hodgson, who only took over six weeks ago, is now unbeaten
in his first five matches and, even if England lose in the
quarter-finals as they often do in major tournaments, he does
appear to have given back to the players a sense of belonging
and pride in pulling on the white shirt again.
Skipper Steven Gerrard, named man of the match for an
impressive display against Ukraine, said he was delighted with
the way the team performed on Monday even if they did enjoy the
luck when an effort from Ukraine's Marco Devic appeared to cross
the line with just over an hour played.
"This is a very professional and very committed group of
players who are totally united and working very hard together,"
he said afterwards. "We know what we have done before, we get to
the quarter-finals and then go home, but things do change.
"To be successful you need a little luck and perhaps ours
is turning. We are looking forward to the next game, we don't
fear anyone and have as much chance as anyone else of doing
Since 1996 when they reached the semi-finals of the Euros on
home soil, England have gone out at the quarter-final stage of
the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the 2004 European Championship,
but there is a feeling it might be different this time.
As well as getting the luck on the disputed goal, which in
the past has gone against them, England also came from behind to
win a game in a tournament for only the fourth time and the
first since 1990, while the win against Ukraine was their first
over a host nation since they beat Switzerland in the 1954 World
With Rooney scoring his first goal in tournament play since
Euro 2004 in Portugal, a sense is developing that England might
go further than many people predicted.
Of course, it could revert to type on Sunday with defeat by
Italy but even if they lose, the "good vibrations", as Hodgson
described the mood surrounding the team now, could well continue
when the World Cup qualifying campaign begins in September.
Pardew to report to returning ex-manager
Sub scores to make it three World Cups in a row
Three-year jail sentence a possibility
Principality project faces legal wrangles over exceptional circumstances
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010