EURO 2012: Why this could be England’s year
England are far from fab, but former Manchester United and Aston Villa boss Ron Atkinson tells Sport360° why they could yet taste glory at Euro 2012. Here is what “Big Ron” had to say…
Now that they are in the quarter finals, there’s a growing feeling this could finally be England’s year. And given the lucky breaks they are getting, maybe it is.
The “goal” from Marko Devic that was not given for Ukraine, despite it being over the line summed it up as England sneaked a 1-0 win to finish top of the group. I was watching it with [TV presenter] Jim Rosenthal and we looked at each other and said straight away, ‘that’s a goal isn’t it?’.
Jim said the referee’s assistant job behind the goal is the one he wants when he finishes in TV because the guy goes to all the best games in the world, gets the best spot, doesn’t have to do anything and doesn’t get into trouble when something goes wrong. It’s mad.
We had Sir Geoff Hurst with us too and, given all the debate with his goal at the 1966 World Cup final, how many times does this subject have to be brought up before technology comes into play?
It was a shame for Ukraine, but you need luck to win the major tournaments and England got a big slice which they’ll take. Their performances so far remind me of Greece in 2004 when they ground out results to win it.
Italy will be a tough test in the last eight and I reckon the game could go to penalties. Our record hasn’t been great, but maybe Chelsea’s win in the Champions League final has ended that run.
Wayne Rooney’s return will improve England. He looked rusty against Ukraine, but he popped up with the winner so that says it all about the sort of impact he can make. And Steven Gerrard would get into any England or Liverpool side that there has ever been.
He’s a terrific player and while he’s not had the best of tournaments for England, he’s been injured or not played in a position that suits his strengths. But he has been our best player in the Euros by a million miles.
For me, he is the nearest to my old Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson I have seen. Robbo was probably a better defensive midfield player, but I like to see Gerrard maurauding and in the last couple of games he has been doing that.
James Milner’s important here because he can cover for Gerrard when he gets forward. We all talk about Spain and Germany’s brilliant midfielders, but if they were in the Premier League, they would be worried about coming up against Gerrard.
Mario not so Super
This could be the tournament where he finally elevates himself to a level of the greats. Mario Balotelli should take note. He scored an outstanding goal against Ireland, but the world-class players I see put in more effort.
People talk about the Italy striker’s great talent, but he’s got to put in a more consistent work ethic. I don’t know who he was having a go at after scoring his goal, but if I was the coach I would drop him again if that’s what it takes to get a response and liven him up!
Best of the rest
France will now take on Spain and this could be a classic game, but I think the reigning champions create more chances and could find a way past the French defence.
Philippe Mexes is suspended and that might be a blessing in disguise because I’ve never been a fan of him. He loses concentration too easily and I think Laurent Koscielny might actually improve their defence. Both these sides have skilful players but I think Spain will just edge it.
The same goes for Germany against Greece; they should be too efficient and too strong. I don’t think anyone would have expected the Greeks or the Czech Republic to still be here while Russia are out, but they’ve shown character to bounce back.
The Greeks will make it hard for Germany as will the Czechs against Portugal, but the big two have more matchwinners. Cristiano Ronaldo finally stepped up for Portugal against Holland and when he plays like he’s interested, he takes some stopping.
Ron Atkinson, former Manchester United manager, will be at the Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate for the Euros along with Sir Geoff Hurst. To find out more visit www.celebrateatthegate.com or call 04 444 5613.