Roy Hodgson announced his England squad this week with the belief in its squad at an understandable high. After having turned the tables on Germany with a 3-2 win, and with no new injury worries ahead of the journey to France, coupled with the seasonal inputs of players such as Jamie Vardy, Joe Hart and Eric Dier, England will be pressed to go as far as the 1990 World Cup side of Sir Bobby Robson, who reached the semi-finals.
The squad, however, has not come without its major talking points. Some have questioned the deservedness of personnel within the squad whom they belief to only be there because they curry favour under Hodgson.
Marcus Rashford: United’s headline hitting youngster has, without any question, made a very good crust for himself during his first taste of Premier League football. Quick, confident, and with a smartness in the box that could rival Michael Owen or Robbie Fowler, there can be no doubting the 18-year-old’s potential. One can question his readiness for such a level of competition, though. It was expected that the tournament had come too soon for him. .Thus far untouched in any level of full international participation this season, he has seen nothing of the tribulations international football can bring. His raw talent could be his making, but his innocence at international level could be his undoing.
In the eyes of some, Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe seemed the more viable option. Having almost single handedly scored the goals to keep the jaws of relegation at bay, this could have been his swansong tournament for the 33-year-old, who more than proved he still has the striker’s finish that served him well at international tournaments too. His age may have been a detrimental factor when it came down to the pair, Hodgson has questionably, but not inexplicably, elected for the rawness of youth, having seen what it can do through Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling.
Having missed almost the entire season, only registering a mere 19 minutes to his name on the final day of the campaign, it almost beggars belief as to why Jack Wilshere warrants a place in the squad. Even the most vociferous Arsenal fan could struggle to mount an argument against the exclusion of West Ham midfielder Mark Noble over Wilshere. The claret captain has been a hugely unsung figure throughout the season. Were it not for the exploits of Leciester City, the contribution of Noble would have almost certainly been earmarked more enthusiastically by pundits and critics. There can also be no guarantee Wilshere will survive the tournament unscathed, certainly against perennial aggressors Russia and Wales.
Another Hammer who is justified in feeling a little out in the cold is Michail Antonio. The brutish winger has been a thorn for defences across the country as Slaven Bilic’s men slowly but surely stamp their authority as being a team to be extremely wary of, mixing in trickery, pace, and power to come within a fingertip of a European place. Antonio’s exclusion comes for the benefit of Sterling, and Delle Alli, whose lithe agility and speed Hodgson seems to prefer.
However, Hodgson seems to have made an astute call in bringing in Andros Townsend to the squad. Though a figure who has long since been a figurehead of the national XI, Townsend has been a standout rejuvenation since his £12million switch to Newcastle United, undoubtedly leading the Magpies fightback against relegation that they would ultimately lose. To watch him play, he looks utterly fearless against his opponents, such raw self-confident, but not arrogant, play is something Hodgson would be correct in thinking may go a long way to deciding what happens over the group games.
With the 26 man squad needing to be cut to 23 before the start of the tournament, there are some who, on the face of it, are teetering on the edge of the squad, and who’s place may be written off already. Though some, like Danny Drinkwater, are not counting their chickens where their places are concerned; some will be looking uneasily over their shoulder – notably Wilshere, Adam Lallana, Rashford and Fabian Delph – as Hodgson prepares to make his final selection.