While others have spent two years of careful planning honing a game plan, fine-tuning a team and developing an understanding, England are a paradox.
Euro 2012: England have prepared for tournament in all the wrong ways
There is the conventional way to approach a major championships and then there is the English way. While others have spent two years of careful planning honing a game plan, fine-tuning a team and developing an understanding, England are a paradox. They appointed a careful organiser as manager but chaos theory appears the prevailing theme.
Roy Hodgson did not take office until May. Without as much as a training session, he selected a 23-man squad. Before their first competitive game, four of them withdrew with various injuries. Some were not satisfied with a place on the standby list, others - quietly in the case of Michael Carrick - had pulled out of the reckoning altogether
The consequence is that England have ended up with a squad no one predicted. A few weeks ago, Martin Kelly might have been the sixth-choice right back. Now he is in the party. So, too, Jordan Henderson, who might not rank among the dozen best central midfielders were others not injured or otherwise unavailable. They may be making up the numbers, but the danger is that England will be, too.
They enter Euro 2012 with a strangely lofty world ranking - sixth - but a manager who Hodgson is rightly reluctant to call them favourites against France on Monday. His initial emphasis has been on stopping opponents scoring. England will be drilled defensively, their back four - albeit one changed by injuries - unlikely to be porous and protected by a two-man shield of deep-lying central midfielders. The wingers may be chosen on the basis of their ability to hold the shape, rather than score or create.
In the forward line, Wayne Rooney will be suspended until the third, and perhaps England's final, game, meaning Ashley Young, who has scored or provided 11 of their last 20 goals, supports a lone striker. It is not an ambitious tactic, but it may be a realistic one.
And even in the unlikely event they do succeed, do not expect to see anyone attempting to mirror England's build-up before the 2014 World Cup.
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