Mails: Have England got best strikers at Euro 2016?

Date published: Monday 20th June 2016 9:14

Harry Kane Daniel Sturridge

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England are going to give somebody a hiding
I’ve managed to catch a lot of the games over the first two rounds and I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me that England have got to have one of the best front lines in the tournament.

Not necessarily in terms of individual quality, though no striker has been truly outstanding yet. England just have so many forwards coming off strong seasons who play in different ways to suit different situations. Keep Kane quiet and Vardy and Sturridge are ready. Let alone Rooney in terms of experience and Rashford in terms of young fearless talent.

If any other team had such a wealth of options we’d be heavily praising them, but of course that’s not fashionable…

The rest of our team is at best good and we’re going to concede goals; but if other teams attack then I can only see us getting a lot of chances of our own as well. We’re some sharp finishing away from giving someone a hiding and I honestly see us going deep into the tournament in increasingly high-scoring games.
Tom Saints (England to score 3+ goals tonight!)

 

What do Liverpool fans think of Sturridge?
Seems everyone has a view on Daniel Sturridge – probably the most telling one is that of Liverpool fans who see him the most. (I was going to say week in week out but obviously that’s not possible for anyone given the injury record, which I’ll set aside for the purposes of this).

As an avid England fan, the occasions I see him are usually limited to when he turns out for the Three Lions, so my view is based on imperfect information. For what it’s worth my view is that he is very talented – for example I don’t think any other England forward would have been able to score that winner for Wales.

But I can understand why fans have their frustrations as I have them myself. To me it seems he almost always looks for the greedy, Hollywood, hang-on-to-the-ball-too-much option – rather than balance that with what is often the simple, quick and unselfish option (ie putting his own desire to shine ahead of the team). Great when it comes off like the other day, but often it can actually be to the detriment of the team.

I guess the bottom line is although he can be good for England, he should be better – hence the frustration.

For the record, contrary to what ‘Matthew, Belfast’ implies, I don’t think this because of the colour of Daniel Sturridge’s skin. I just form my opinion from what football action I see on the pitch, as I do for any player.

While racism still exists in sport and society (obviously) and needs eradicating (equally obviously), I find it odd that someone would call it out with such a lazy presumption and generalisation as Matthew.

As stated, I’d be interested to hear Liverpool fans’ views on a fit Sturridge as all in the last mailbox were from supporters from other clubs or with no team stated.
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester

 

Give Daniel’s high-risk belief a chance
I too would like to see Sturridge start against Slovakia in place of fatigued Kane. Part of the problem with him is that Sturridge is high risk/high reward. He will be wasteful, run down dead ends and sometimes ignore his teammates who are in better positions. He will have games where everything he tries doesn’t work out and everyone declares that he’s dreadful. He will also have games where it just works and on those days, he is unplayable. In a winner takes all tournament you need or two of these in your team. The lad has confidence which borders on over-confidence sometimes. However, it is not arrogance. We have lacked this positive kind of belief in the past where the ‘golden generation’ had a strange mix of arrogance and anxiety that crippled England in the major competitions.

In a tournament of poor forwards we have five who are really rather good, each in different ways. On his day Sturridge is the best of all them. As for once he’s fully fit and firing let’s give him the chance to prove this. He believes it and he’s desperate to show it.
Jon Tucker

 

It has to be Kane…
Kane has to start tonight. I’m sorry to all you Vardy lovers, but England don’t play like Leciester, were not Leicester and were not ‘gunna do a Leicester’. Also we’ve seen some pretty damning evidence Vardy isn’t a winger.

I literally don’t care Woy plays Rashford or Sturrdige with or to the side of Kane. But as Thierry said last night, we need Kane if we are going to go far. For me dropping him and knocking his confidence in such a light, would be a drastic mistake.

I’ve written in numerous times to this site throughout the year, showing my somewhat negative feelings towards Sterling. At a similar success rate to his pass completion, most haven’t been posted.

But now as the whole country seems to be against him, I really kind of, feel sorry for him.

He definitely did/does have talent, but quite clearly his mentality has been shattered. I hope he manages to come on deep into the day tonight or at any stage in the tournament, (as a late substitute) and have something of an impact. His career really seems to be taking a huge nose dive, and I know it seems unrealistic but does he definitely feature in Pep’s plans?

Anyway I hope he picks things up somehow.

Kind of like Beiber, so when you all like him, I can hate him.
Sean
(Hope Vardy proves me wrong. He won’t.)

 

A sinking feeling about England
As we approach England vs Slovakia this evening I have a growing sense of dread. There is one Englishman whose performance I did not have to endure during the Wales match that I just know is going to get in on the action tonight. He always ruins England matches, indeed any match he is involved in. He has a self-satisfied way about him, thinks he is cleverer than he actually is and makes the match virtually unbearable. The worst thing is…I think Clive Tyldesley is going to get all 90 minutes just to rub it in.

Justice for the ITV one
ClumsyHector, London

 

Conclusions on the Euros so far
* The repetitive patterns of late goals seem to suggest that having fitter players is as important as having technical players. This could just be the tournament for graft to reign supreme.

* It also suggests the importance of timing substitutions. Proactive changes seem to be more effective than “if it ain’t broke…” thinking. To me, it really shows how far ahead Europe is tactically to the rest of the world that systems change so much within games as managers are constantly thinking on their feet.

* Player of the tournament so far has got to be Xhaka for me. I know I might be biased, but there really seems to be so much attention towards goalscorers all the time that we forget to appreciate the work done elsewhere. Ahead of the France/Switzerland game, the focus really is on the midfield battle. Xhaka is the key for the Swiss.

* Belgium are yet to have a cracking game against top opposition in recent memory despite all the talent. Portugal seem to have decided to play only as good as Ronaldo does. France and Germany haven’t really got going yet and Spain still seem suspect despite their start. England are England. Italy are punching above their weight, but for how long? Could this tournament present the opportunity for one of the second-tier teams to go all the way? Who would you have win it in that case? Croatia for me.

* The following is completely IMO. Best fans of the tournament so far are the Swedes. Whether drawing or losing, they just seem to wanna keep drinking, singing and having a good time. No fighting, swearing or breaking things (for the most part), just plain and simple fun. Honourable mentions to the Irish and Icelanders.

* At the other end of the spectrum (again IMO), are the Italians. To me, it seems like they are only interested in supporting the team when they’re winning, and spend the rest of the time complaining with vigorous gestures. Maybe they’ve been too spoilt over the years, but they really should be happier than most.

* On a serious note, security at the stadiums seem to be slacking off. On the opening day, it would take 20 minutes to even get in to a fan zone. Now, they’re just patting down a few times and waving people in. As has been mentioned elsewhere, if it is that easy to bring in flares, fireworks and smoke bombs, how hard would it be for the terrorists?

* Fan violence is still a big concern. Yesterday the Hungarians were lighting fireworks and flares on the streets before and after the game – some were near children. This is on top of reports that fights broke out between fans and the police. Not to single Hungary out, as this is a widespread problem.

* Finally, not sure if it’s because of the new format, but this Euro championship has been the best in memory so far. Well done to the teams, fans and France.
Girish (Thank you hooligans for making me have my drinks in plastic cups), AFC, Chennai

 

Second round winners and losers
These will be slightly stale, given that they’ll be published after Group A is concluded, but sod it. It’s Sunday, I’m a touch hungover and the alternative is doing the dishes.

Spain – as has been said already, it’s mad how they were dismissed considering their squad. Against Turkey, the quality shone through in the best performance of the tournament. Weak link Alvaro Morata is joint-top scorer and Andres Iniesta is a god.

Didier Deschamps – are two last-gasp winners a sign of an over-hyped side that’s so far managed to cover its arse, or a genuine challenger with never-say-die spirit? Deschamps would be more taxed by that question if Switzerland hadn’t failed to beat Romania, leaving France one point away from topping the group. So far he has failed to conjure a really impressive performance from an impressive group, but finishing above the Swiss probably means it’ll be the semi-finals before he has to.

N’Golo Kante – there was a palpable sense of shock when he over-hit a pass for Anthony Martial. But really it was business as usual for everyone’s favourite midfielder: he led France in passes, ball recoveries, tackles and interceptions. Victory came from the pressure France were finally able to exert in the last quarter of the game and Kante did most to ensure the one-way traffic. Serious question: if France were to win the entire thing, how close would he get to a Balon D’Or?

Northern Ireland – claimed one of the outstanding results of the tournament. It was a brilliant moment for Gareth McCauley, who has earned this Indian summer in his career, but the most impressive person in the set-up is Michael O’Neill. The manager who galvanised Norn Iron (gettit?) in qualification made five changes, including dropping his main striker, in a game he knew he had to win. Extra points for beating Ukraine, international football’s equivalent of watching beige paint dry.

Roy Hodgson – speaking of risk taking, it’s nice to see a plainly decent man – and definitely the right man for the job, if you think the England team should be managed by an Englishman – receiving the plaudits for once, but had Daniel Sturridge not scored at the death, what would have been the post mortem? England struggled to create a clear-cut chance against Wales’ massed ranks, and from where I was sitting the glut of attackers on the pitch looked to be part of the problem. Luckily England have another game to find round pegs for round holes.

Belgium – a reminder of what they can do when Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard fire (and you opt for the fillet steak of Moussa Dembele rather than the wiring your nipples up to the mains of Marouane Fellaini).

The Czech Republic – completely and utterly terrible against the Croats for 75 minutes, and now possibly favourites to claim second in Group D. That likely gets them a game against Italy with Germany waiting in the quarter-finals, so be careful what you wish for…

Losers

Croatia – For the first 165 minutes of their campaign, they were playing themselves into the title-winning conversation. Luka Modric’s injury and 15 horrible minutes on and off the pitch put paid to that for the time being. Spain are up next, Modric looks likely to be out, and a third-place finish could well be on the cards. That seems quite likely to yield a second-round tie with England. Come to think of it, maybe third is preferable in Group D.

Poland – if the chances had fallen to Robert Lewandowski rather than Arcadiusz Milik, Poland probably would have beaten the world champions and taken control of the group. With that awful three-yard header, second-place was almost certainly solidified. If Lewandowski can live up to his billing as Europe’s best striker, they’ll still be a very tough opponent in the last 16.

The egos – atop the list of Euro 2016 disappointments – on the pitch at least – must sit Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Oh who am I kidding? The fact the competition’s two biggest dickheads have been so abject is absolutely brilliant. Ibrahimovic might have a dismal team around him, but should that excuse a man of his calibre? Already the competition’s biggest offside culprit, the referee’s assistant spared him from wrapping up the award for its worst miss. Ronaldo’s night to forget in Paris could be instant karma for his comments about Iceland, but that would ignore the rest of the misfortune he surely has stored up.

Austria – speaking of one-man teams, Austria look increasingly like David Alaba and ten others. Bottom of the weakest group and outplayed in both games, a point flatters them.

The Republic of Ireland – things don’t get much crueller than the possible two-goal swing they suffered between the clear foul on Shane Long and Lukaku’s beautiful finish, but you get a sense that Ireland have reaped what they’ve sowed. Beating the Swedes was always going to be their best chance of advancing, and they squandered that chance in Paris.

Joe Hart – awful distribution and an untimely trip into no-man’s land versus Russia, and a howler against Wales. The silver lining for Joe is, if Cadbury’s ever decide to release Chocolate Wrists, they have just the man for the ad campaign.
Will O’Doherty

 

It’s not Italy’s year
As lovely as it would be to see Italy perform this year at the Euros, sorry Gez, you’re bang out of luck.

See, Italy’s performance is completely uncorrelated with the talent in their squad, but by the year. Italy only make the final of a major tournament every six years – 2012, 2006, 2000, 1994, 1982 (they only made the semis in 1988). So it being four years since they last made a final, it ain’t gonna happen. You can look forward to a prosperous World Cup though.

Turns out that the only discernible trend as far as England is concerned is that for England to make the final the year has to begin with ’19’ and end up with ’66’.
Alex (selfish of Sturridge to hog the plaudits really), LFC

 

The curious case of James McCarthy
As a disappointed Irish fan, I’m very curious as to what James McCarthy actually does? He has long been criticised from our pundits (albeit Eamon Dunphy has went a little over the top to suggest that he is the reason Martinez got sacked) for not having any influence on the game, which I would tend to agree with. I haven’t watched him under the microscope for Everton as much as I have for Ireland, but is he really any more than a Tom Cleverly? There has often been talk of Spurs or Arsenal being admirers; I’m really not sure how he has warranted such interest?

Glenn Whelan tends to get a bit of stick from Irish fans, but he has far more of a presence in the Irish side than McCarthy does. McCarthy is forever hiding from the ball, doesn’t get stuck in enough and doesn’t offer any bit of creativity. Can someone shed some light on why he seems to be highly rated?
Dane (I still believe), Limerick

 

Stonewall Storey
In reference to Daniel Storey’s piece on Ireland’s defeat to Belgium…I agree Ireland were completely outclassed in the second half by a much better side but how is getting kicked in the head (five ft off the ground) not a stonewall penalty?

Ireland aren’t a team that can chase a game (as proven) but a correct penalty decision by an atrocious referee would have changed the course of the whole game.

Anyway…my point is…if getting kicked in the head isn’t a stonewall peno…what is?
Simon P, (I really like Daniel Storey’s other stuff) Dublin

 

This is what happened to Scotland…
I thought I’d have a go at answering the question that Jonesey from Melbourne posed in Sunday morning’s mailbox. What has happened to Scotland? You could easily look at the basic facts (only home nation not to qualify, not qualified since 1998) but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Let’s start with the Euro 2016 qualifiers. We had a tough group. Germany, Poland, Scotland and Ireland all would have had genuine hope or expected to qualify, so right off the bat we knew someone was going to be disappointed. If we were in a group instead of Wales or Northern Ireland’s I would have fancied our chances of finishing at least third.

For us, this was a qualifiers of pure frustration. For those not watching Scotland closely you might not realise how close we came to qualifying. So let’s look at what happened.

1. We finished behind Ireland and Poland. We played four games against these teams and didn’t lose any of them. This is an amazingly Scottish tradition. Beat the good teams, lose to the rest. In the Euro 2008 qualifiers, we beat France home and away and beat WC quarter-finals Ukraine and yet still finished behind them because we lost to Georgia. In the 2014 WC qualifiers we beat Croatia home and away (who finished second) and lost to Wales home and away (who finished behind us in fifth). This time we nearly beat Poland twice (but got two draws) narrowly lost to Germany twice and picked up four points against Ireland. But, of course, we lost to Georgia (again). This, more than anything else, has been behind us not qualifying.

2. This year, results seriously went against us in the rest of the group. Did anyone expect Ireland to pick up four points against Germany? For Poland to beat Germany? I’m not trying to say we deserved to go through, Ireland did amazingly well to get those results, but it was unbelievably annoying to see results go that way (This happened in 2008 as well. We beat France twice. Had they lost one of their games to Italy, we would have qualified).

3. Injury time. A quite mind blowing stat is that if you take away injury-time goals, we would have finished four points ahead of Ireland instead of three points behind. Again, football ends at the final whistle so I’m not saying we deserved it, but it was very frustrating to watch and shows how fine the margins were.

So that was this year. We were close and with just a few goals going the other way, it could have been Irish fans staying at home and Scottish fans bombarding social media with videos of them changing car tires or cheering a man on a balcony.

As for the general state of Scottish football, our team is OK. Comparing us to the other home nations, aside from England, I think we match up man for man. Wales have a few stars (and one superstar) that have really elevated them. Take Bale out and I think we’re a close match. Man for man we certainly are equal to Ireland and, with respect, are better than Northern Ireland (although as a team they are exceptional for the resources they have). We have a squad of competent players. What we lack is an exceptional talent like Bale and Ramsey for Wales or Keane and Duff (in their day) for Ireland.

I’d planned to explain why were are not producing good players, but this mail is long enough already, without going into the reasons behind our lack of quality (maybe another time). I just wanted to get across the fact that have been closer recently (no more so than this tournament). For the World Cup in 2018 we have to finish ahead of Slovakia and Slovenia to finish second, which you’d think we have a chance of. As it stands I’m just watching on with envy as everyone else enjoys the tournament. We’re at 18 years of hurt and counting. Fingers crossed.
Mike, LFC, Dubai

 

You just can’t help yourself…
Names of footballers I repeat aloud whenever they are mentioned in the commentary, however inaccurately:

Bonucci (‘Bonoochee’)
Gignac (‘Gigg-knack’)
Piqué (‘Pee-kett’)

and once, of course…

Agueeeeeroooooooooooooooo (‘Agueeeeeroooooooooooooooo’)
Craig Morrison, Athens

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