England Needs to Play Ugly to Stand Any Chance at Euro 2012

In the final days before Euro 2012 kicks off, questions abound over how far England can realistically go this summer. As the injuries continue to mount, optimism steadily decreases over England’s chances.

Yet, could lowered expectations work in England’s favor?

In past Euro and World Cup tournaments, the amount of buzz surrounding England has always been incredibly high with media sensationalism. Yet, with all the hype of golden era of the 2000s, it’s fair to say that while the English were filled with superstar talent and promise, they just weren’t good enough to win.

As England approaches Euro 2012, expectations just aren’t as high under Roy Hodgson. Most fans would scoff at the notion of England actually really having any chance of winning Euro 2012 due to lowered enthusiasm from past failures.

However, after years of experience on both the domestic and international, Hodgson has a plan that has found him success before. Instead of playing attractive, possession-oriented football, Hodgson has signaled change with conservative tactics that call for rigidity over style.

Rather than playing creative, free-flowing football that Spain and the Netherlands thrive on, England has no choice but to defend and play for the counter. It won’t be easy, but perhaps this strategy will play to the strength of the Three Lions.

The decision to play unattractive, boring football will not be met favorably by many in England. The press will lambast it and argue that Hodgson’s oversimplified tactics will set the team backwards. The quality of the football played by England would be low enough for critics and disgruntled supporters to complain that Hodgson and the Football Association are just playing it too safe.

Yet, despite the complaints, England won’t simply care as long as they get positive results like they did against Belgium and Norway. Even though they were out-played in midfield by inferior teams who created for more chances than they did, Hodgson will be cautiously optimistic that his strategy can work.

There are reasons why England should continue to play as ugly as they did in their friendly matches. First off, this strategy defines who Hodgson is. While it isn’t the most pleasing to look at, Hodgson’s tactics are easy enough to learn for players who have only been under him for mere weeks. Time is a luxury England doesn’t have so easy-to-learn conservative tactics is quick enough for the players to adapt too and develop a rapport with each other.

Secondly, while many would dream of England winning tournaments in style, the skill of the players selected dictates the defensive tactics Hodgson would want to use. Rather than having midfielders like Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley or the injured Jack Wilshere who keep possession of the ball and can build chances from clinical passing, Hodgson has elected to go with those who fit his style. Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker will work well in England’s system in terms of making strong tackles and linking up with speedsters ahead.

England also have wingers and strikers who can thrive off the counter when moving forward. Players like Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all possess blistering pace when driving forward with the ball. In England’s victories over Belgium and Norway, both goals scored came from Young who really is benefiting in his role behind the striker.

England need to have the tempo to use through passes to unlock defenses and then must rely on their forwards being clinical when finishing the few scoring chances they’ll receive. Danny Welbeck’s goal against Belgium typified the sort of class England’s strikers need to have up front.

Whether England really has any chance this summer depends on the will and belief in this squad. While injuries and snubs have made this roster far weaker than it could have been, this team may be able to go far under reliable tactics that have worked before on the big stage. For inspiration, England can look back recently to Chelsea’s run which showed that strict tactical displays can lead to success over opponents with more talented rosters.

In the end, if England falls while playing unglamorously, it doesn’t really matter. Losing is still losing.

Therefore, as the Euro draws near, England should be prepared to play as conventional as possible. With all the injuries that has plagued his roster, Hodgson can only hope that his side can go far despite how depleted they are.

It’s a big “if”, but if England is going to win the Euro, it certainly won’t be pretty to watch.

Yet, if it gets the job done, that’s all that really matters.

17 thoughts on “England Needs to Play Ugly to Stand Any Chance at Euro 2012”

  1. Ahhhmm, when has England played “jogo bonito’? Tick-tack football? Never. England has never had the players to play beautiful football in the first place.

    I made the mistake of watching the first 45 minutes v. Belgium on Saturday. This was borderline masochism, simply unwatchable.

    With Scott Parker in midfield, if England gets past the group stage, this should be considered success.

    Unlike prior tournaments, the team has a solid goalkeeper in Hart, but that’s about it. Rooney or no Rooney, the team is awful. Loss in the first game to France will surely make matters very difficult. But I really haven’t seen the French in quite some time so they could surprise for all the right or wrong reasons…

  2. Why are England criticised for the ‘sh*t on a stick’ performance over the weekend, but Belgium praised?

    For me the obsession with meaningless possession has become almost cult-like. If one team has the ball 70% of the time, but the other team creates the better chances with their 30%, who is the better football team?

    Passing the ball around in ‘safe’ zones is dull and not necessarily indicative of being on top of the game. Last time I checked football is won by sticking the ball in the net – and to do that you tend to need to create chances. Passing endlessly hoping for a team to lose its shape is one way, so is playing it direct. One is not by definition better than the other.

    1. Because for a team about to participate in a major tournament, it felt more like Belgium was the one going to the tournament and it wanted to work the kinks out of their game. The most disheartening thing about England is, they don’t inspire confidence regardless of talent or tactics. You don’t have to be the most talented team to step on the field and be resolute with what it is you want/need to achieve your goals. It’s like there is no enthusiasm in most England teams what so over. And when I say “resolute”, just think about how Chelsea played their Champion’s League games even though the fans, the opponent, and Chelsea players knew they were over-matched talent-wise but they played each game like they belong by competing to their last breaths. Which is something England leaves you time and again to wonder, and it seems like they are afraid of their shadows. I can’t remember the last time I saw England game and go, ” they just put caution to the wins and play the shit out of that football game”. Anyways we can only hope, but i don’t see England imitating Greece to even make it to quarters or semis.

  3. “It’s a big “if”, but if England is going to win the Euro, it certainly won’t be pretty to watch.”

    Just like you said, it’s Roy hodgeson, no England’s football is not going to look at, it is embarrassing.

    “Yet, if it gets the job done, that’s all that really matters.”

    This conflict between these 2 different ideologies isn’t going to go away. It seems completely obvious, Of course it matters! How you win at anything matters.

    IMO ugly football has no place in the modern game. But what is ugly football?

    For me its a combination of a few different things, but, mostly i find negative oriented play (Chelsea semi and final performances) the key to defining “ugly” football. Now, not many teams play ugly football 24/7, there are some exceptions like stoke, and Roy Hogesons West Brom and now England.

    Long ball, can be ugly, but it is not always ugly. Seeing someone switch from one side to the other with a 40 yard ball from one player to anothers feet is a beautiful thing. Counter attacking football doesn’t have to be ugly it depends on how the team is setup, and how the counter attack is executed. There are a lot of variables in most types of play and to explain each one would be long winded and un-necessary.

    The thing with ugly football, you know it when you see it, everyone does it just a matter of whether you can accept it as long as you win. I personally can’t. I would rather enjoy watching the game and brand of football, the more attractive form of football wins out eventually, it may just take more time to for the national team to win that way, especially if everyone else is already playing it better that way than we are. I don’t think that’s reason to give up and “play ugly to win”.

    Keep at it and get better at it. It’s how the game will move forward and it’s how England should win. The premier league is the best league I the world because most of the teams play the right way. So why does the national team have to play negatively with words like, negative, monotonous, boring, unimaginative, predictable, defensive being the words that jump out after the recent friendly’s? Why not the words, creative, imaginative, skillful, inspiring, beautiful, attractive and entertaining? It is that last sequence of words that I associate with words like winning and success not the former.

    1. My damn iPhone keypad and auto correct is showing a more Charlie Sheen form of winning than anything else.(f$&@-/ typos)

  4. “Needs to play ugly” where have you been? they already play ugly. England is fast becoming kings of 1-0. But then again it worked for Greece.

    1. I love how critics talk about an ‘ugly’ style of play. Then teams need to go out and learn how to beat that ugly style of play! Barcelona with its so-callled beautiful play? Nope! Chelsea showed everyone how to beat them. As Frank above says, ‘a win is a win’ – now let’s just hope England collects some wins.

  5. Barca and Spain is often ugly to me, well ugly may not be the right word, boring might be a better word. Their passing across, back, side to side. Sometimes it’s like watching paint dry. A little bit of everything is good, mix it up with short and long passes.
    The right pass is the only thing that matters not whether it is short or long.
    England need to play like a premier league team, nothing more, nothing less. They don’t need to play the Barca way they all just need to do what they do week in week out for their clubs

  6. I think that this is the first international tournament in history for me (I’m 25) where I am not believing any of the hype or hope surrounding the English squad. If I look at them as objectively as possible (which is always hard with so much more coverage of them compared to many others), they are not as good as two of the other squads in the group.

    I cannot see them even qualifying for the knock-out rounds. Would be refreshing to be proven wrong, but with injuries, new manager, drama with Terry and anything else, this just smells like an Italy or France disaster from 2010 recreated.

    Sorry England, get your stuff together for 2014.

  7. Fifa or fisa (for those that say soccer) and ea just showed fifa 13 trailer. Anyone find it strange if winning is all that matters why messi is on the cover and there is new creative moves and attacking prowess?

    Strange how in fifa you can’t put 11 men behind the ball. Hhmm I wonder…

    EA games FiFa 13 just announced 2 new modes. Mode 1 is called “Roy” in this mode you can pick a team that falls apart after too many injuries with old squad members that shoukdnt have been picked anyway, forcing you to use your “standby” players, sounds exiting right? That’s not all, you get to play some of the most boring and predictable football ever and once completed you get to unlock the next mode.

    If that doesn’t tickle your pickle or blow you away you can play mode 2. This is “DiMatteo UCL mode” it’s simple, its 120 minutes of defending, you will have just 2 attempts on goal and only one corner in the 88th minute, you will be bombarded by wave after wave of attacks that show skill by your opponents, but not available to you, so make the most of your opportunities. Try to unlock the “lucky bugger coin”. This coin when used in the game will make anyone miss a penalty, even messi and robben, yes that’s right, the “lucky bugger coin” will make even those great players fail at a penalty.

    With enough hours you could unlock the JT/ivanovic dirty move mode. Knee, kick, punch in the kidneys any player and get away with it, be careful tho to many and you may just get caught out.

    You know what, that sounds like a great game, I assume that these new “a win is a win” modes will be the only modes played by many people on here?


  8. For one team to have possession for 70% of the game, there must be a team on the park who only possess the ball 30% of the time.

    I HATE the evolution of this discussion.Yes it’s wonderful that you have teams playing beautiful football. But you need some sort of antithesis to the beautiful part of the game.

    England, ripe with pace up top, is right to sit back and counter.

    Though presumably, a 3 man midfield of Scholes, Carrick, and Wilshere could play “the right way”.

  9. Playing ugly is one thing, not being to make a single forward pass is another. did you know that Welbeck made the first successful forward pass through the middle in the game against Belgium?? and he’s a striker!!

    Its not that England has never had the players to play beautiful football. it’s jsut that as long as one can remember, England’s midfield has been putrid.
    1) Gerrard is not a deep lying playmaker.
    2) Parker is a ball winner, nothing more. with Gerrard not being able to play the creative role next to him in such a deep position, england wont create much
    3) Ashley Young is not a CAM. He needs space to operate. he can do a job as CAM but his best pos is on the wing. Gerrard can play the deep lying playmaker role but When rooney comes back, Rooney will have to play there(CAM) since that is his best position. So again there doesn’t seem to be a place for Gerrard in the team(where he can play his most eff. position).
    4)Welbeck touched the ball 4-5 times during the 56mns he was in the game and its not like he didn’t make him available to receive a pass either. The midfield never went for a forward pass.


    Now i see why Hodgson decided to go with Carroll. With such a bad midfield(and without Rooney), they can just long it to Carroll and make the game simpler.

    1. In a perfect world we would have Wilshere next to Parker and Rooney up front with Welbeck but you can only play what you have at your disposal. England like usual will be missing a number of players who would probably have started.

      Hodgson should have been on the phone to Scholes to beg him to put in one more tourney

  10. The only strength we have is our defense and keeper. Hodgson knows it and is setting the team up accordingly. Backs to the wall, Dunkirk spirit is what we do best. Coupled with sound tactics that plays to our strength and who knows what might happen. Unfortunately, we start with France first up who could be the dark horses for the tournament. They probably have too much quality and I suspect Gerrard and Parker will get overrun in midfield. Gerrard in particular looks to be past it. If we get taken part by France then I suspect our tournament will be over before Shrek gets to pull on a shirt. It all hinges on next Monday for me.

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