England qualified for this years European Championships in Group E. They were only the fifth ever team to breeze through the qualifying stages with a 100% win record throughout ten matches, following on from France's 1992 and 2004 campaigns, Czech Rebublic in 2000 and both Spain and Germany in the 2012 tournament. Yes, they were placed in one of the easiest groups with only Switzerland ever challenging them in a group Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and one of the world's worst teams in San Marino.
In the EURO 2016, England have been placed in Group B as the first seeded team. They have been given a fairly difficult group to get out of with opponents Russia, Wales and Slovakia in the group stages.
England have had a rough time in the European Championships after qualifying for the tournament eight times before this one in France. In 1980, 1988, 1992 and 2000, the national team failed to make it out of the group stages. The furthest that they have ever been is achieving a third-place finish in 1968. However the most famous tournament was EURO 1996, which was held in England. A truly epic encounter between England and Germany ended in tears for the English as they lost on penalties in the Semi-Finals following Paul Gascoigne's heartbreaking open goal miss in the golden goal period, which would have sent them to the Final against Czech Republic instead of Germany.
Position: Goalkeeper |Caps: 58 | Goals: 0 | Age: 29 Club: Manchester City
Eight years after his debut, the Manchester City goalkeeper is clearly established as England’s first-choice. Hart did not feature at the 2010 World Cup but started the next two major tournaments and nine of England’s Euro 2016 qualifiers. Strong, authoritative and a reassuring presence.
Position: Centre-back | Caps: 42 | Goals: 3 | Age: 30 | Club: Chelsea
Hodgson’s vice-captain and a regular under this manager, he will hope to make up for missing out on Euro 2012 after breaking his jaw in a friendly against Belgium just before the tournament. The Chelsea centre-half has captained the team on occasion – not least in the victory in Germany in March – and is a rugged performer, despite struggling at times to hold down his position at club level this season.
Position: Midfielder | Caps: 59 | Goals: 1 | Age: 30 | Club: Liverpool
England’s Mr Reliable over seven years. Only Rooney boasts more caps in this squad, with Milner having featured in three major tournaments. The Liverpool player can operate across midfield, even as a deep-lying anchor, and at right-back, but has suggested Euro 2016 may be his last involvement with the national side. He has big boots to fill following the retirement of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard over recent years.
Position: Forward/Winger | Caps: 22 | Goals: 2 | Age: 22 | Club: Manchester City
Only the fifth Englishman to be capped before his 18th birthday, Sterling was called up by Hodgson after Euro 2012 and his performance against Italy in Manaus was arguably the highlight of the team’s World Cup campaign in 2014. Has been used wide right but also at the tip of a midfield diamond, where he revelled in the World Cup.
Position: Midfielder/Forward | Caps: 110 | Goals: 52 | Age: 30 | Club: Manchester United
England’s captain and record goalscorer, with 52. Burst on to the international scene at Euro 2004 but has endured frustration at virtually every major tournament since, from dismal form, a lack of fitness or an untimely red card. This may be his last opportunity to excel on the international stage with many fans calling for the Manchester United legend to be replaced by a younger alternative.
Position: Midfielder | Caps: 7 | Goals: 1 | Age: 20 | Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Was promoted into the England senior side as a teenager last autumn and has not looked back, quickly establishing himself as a key, energetic member of Hodgson’s team. He can operate as a Number 10 or in one of the wide positions of a midfield three, and provides forward thrust and energy. Scored his first senior goal against France and was outstanding in the win in Germany.
Position: Forward | Caps: 6 | Goals: 3 | Age: 29 | Club: Leicester City
Hodgson was impressed with Vardy’s raw ability, energy and industry, through Leicester’s relegation fight in 2014-15 and offered the striker a debut in Dublin last summer. Scored his first international goals against Germany and Holland in March, and can operate wide or through the middle.
With many England fans bemoaning the current England boss, claiming that his lack of international or continental experience prior to taking the top job deems him 'unqualified' for the England job. His job started with controversy in the EURO 2012 tournament when he left out former England captain Rio Ferdinand. However in the same tournament, Hodgson was praised by other managers saying that he had made England a 'tough team to beat' after being knocked out on penalties by Italy in the Quarter-Finals. After the tournament, England rose to third in the world rankings - the highest the country had been since the ranking system was introduced in 1992.
However, the 2014 World Cup was a disaster for Hodgson, with his England team being knocked out of the Group Stages for the first time in the World Cup since 1958. With Italy, Costa Rica and Uruguay in his group, it would always be tough but it was even more of a shock to see Costa Rica go through to the knockout rounds along with Italy. England failed to win a game in the tournament.
Leading up to this years tournament, Hodgson has been lamented by fans for his bias towards playing record goalscorer Wayne Rooney instead of younger, quicker players like Marcus Rashford, Ross Barkley and Jamie Vardy. It will be interesting to see whether the 68-year-old will continue to play the forward, and how the fans react to it.
In such an average group, England is expected to at least qualify for the next round of the tournament. If the final results were based solely on talent, England should breeze through the Group Stages of this tournament, but with Wales' star man Gareth Bale to be fit for the England tie fresh from winning the Champions League with Real Madrid, that will be a tough game. Likewise, the threat of Alexandr Kokorin and Artyom Dzyuba could potentially cause trouble for Russia, as well as the rock that is Igor Akinfeev at the back. Equally, Slovakia have a surprisingly promising squad, with Martin Skrtel captaining his national team for the tournament. They also have a very productive midfield, with former Man City midfielder Vladimir Weiss, Miroslav Stoch and Napoli superstar Marek Hamsik all problems for England. However the Slovakians are very short on quality strikers, with Adam Nemec (Willem II) and Michal Ďuriš (Viktoria Plzen) their only two selected strikers for EURO 2016.
Personally, I think that this is one of the strongest England teams that they have had for years, and despite Roy Hodgson not being the perfect man for the job in my opinion, I think that this squad's talent have enough about them, including personality to take the team far into the tournament. Their qualifying campaign speaks volumes of our togetherness throughout that stage and I can only suppose that that togetherness has stuck and England are in for a good campaign. I personally believe that England can go through to the Quarter-Finals at least.