Carroll in line for start as England look to attack


Republic of Ireland’s dreams of qualifying from Euro 2012 Group C were dashed in clinical fashion on Thursday night as world champions Spain got back into their groove with a 4-0 win. Meanwhile, Italy and Croatia played out a 1-1 draw in the first game of the day to ensure that the pool will go down to the last day to decide the quarter-finalists.

Today England are back in action, as they take on a desperate Sweden side in Kiev. Roy Hodgson has asked his side to improve in the final third, and will look for a win to increase their chances of making the knockout stages. Ukraine also face France in the other Group D fixture; here is the news that Soccerlens has been reading from Euro 2012 today.

England to go on the offensive against Sweden

After a relatively-solid performance against France in their first game to get a hard-fought 1-1 draw, Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson admitted that he was pleased with the result but feels his side can improve in attack. The British team are obviously missing the suspended Wayne Rooney, just as any team would miss their best player, and for Friday’s fixture against Sweden they will be without the Manchester United marksman once more. As such, Hodgson is expected to abandon his reserved tactics and play with two in attack, with Liverpool targetman Andy Carroll expected to partner Danny Welbeck up front.

Les Bleus boss Laurent Blanc took a swipe at England by stating that a better team would have beaten France in the opening game if they were given the same chances, and there is a case in point that England should have netted on other occasions than Joleon Lescott’s first-half header. James Milner was certainly guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance, and in the second game Hodgson will hope his team can take their opportunities.

Rooney’s unavailability and Darren Bent’s injury leave the Three Lions with limited options in attack, but Hodgson has indicated that Carroll’s physical presence and threat in the air may well mean he gets the nod against the Scandinavians. Andriy Shevchenko showed that Erik Hamren’s men could be vulnerable from crosses, and as such Hodgson has admitted that this may well be a ploy that his side use.

It has been a strange season for Liverpool forward Carroll, as he spent most of 2011-12 having to deal with damning criticism from the media and the Anfield side’s fans for poor performances and a lack of goals. The hitman’s astronomical January 2011 transfer fee from Newcastle will certainly have increased pressure on him to deliver, however towards the end of last term there were certainly signs that Carroll was getting back to his best, with a number of improved displays and the ball starting to hit the back of the net.

Carroll’s inclusion is a positive move by Hodgson as he looks to get away from the stereotype that England will look to defend and get the odd goal in tournament football, and playing two in attack certainly indicates that his side will look to win the match. However, as former Sweden captain Jonas Thern has pointed out, their style may well become predictable with Carroll’s inclusion.

The manner and style of England’s play will be an acid test to gauge their Euro 2012 credentials. Despite Carroll providing a real threat in the air and having the ability to hold the ball up, Hodgson’s men must resist the temptation to constantly hit the ball in hope towards the burly attacker. Many sides at both international and club level in the English game have been guilty of just launching the ball towards a targetman as an act of desperation, but the current Three Lions team have talented ball players, and as such should look to attack the Swedes on the deck also.

Sweden have a not too dissimilar scenario in that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the line for England’s opponents; another physical frontman. However, Hamren’s men will not resort to merely trying to find the AC Milan striker from range, and will want to get the ball down and play – England should take note.

Sweden lost their first game to Ukraine, and as such need a result here. A draw would keep them in the reckoning, but the Scandinavians may well be playing to win, same as England. The Three Lions will keep an eye on the other game, but either way they will need a result in their final fixture after co-hosts Ukraine’s first victory.

Although in tournament football the result is the most important thing, if England want to prevail against Sweden they need to play enterprising football and not solely rely on Carroll’s stature as an attacking threat.

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Irish were chasing shadows

Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 campaign is over after they were systematically put to the sword by world champions Spain in a 4-0 defeat. Irish midfielder Keith Andrews admits that his men were chasing shadows for the 90 minutes.

Russia to appeal disciplinary measures

The Russian FA have confirmed that they will fight against the six-point deduction that the nation was given for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. The eastern European country’s fans have been at the centre of violent clashes so far this summer.

Gomez turned from villain into hero

Germany striker Mario Gomez has hit the country’s three goals in Euro 2012, and as such The Guardian indicate that the Bayern Munich frontman is the nation’s new hero.

Mandzukic takes Group C down to the wire

An equaliser by Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic earned his side a point against Italy in a 1-1 draw, cancelling out Andrea Pirlo’s first-half opener on Thursday night. Group C will now be decided on the last round of fixtures, whilst Mandzukic has taken his tally for the tournament to three goals.

Tomorrow I will be looking into the England vs Sweden game and covering all the fallout from Friday night’s Group D fixtures. Saturday sees the start of the last round of games, with Poland, Russia, Greece and Czech Republic all vying for quarter-final berths from Group A.

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