Craig Hope answers: Can England win Euro 2012?

England's Ashley Young (centre) is embraced by team-mate Andy Carroll (right) and Steven Gerrard after scoring his side's first goal of the game during the International Friendly at the Ullevaal Stadium, Oslo, Norway. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 26, 2012. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.paphotos.com/info/ for full restrictions and further information.
England's Ashley Young (centre) is embraced by team-mate Andy Carroll (right) and Steven Gerrard after scoring his side's first goal of the game during the International Friendly at the Ullevaal Stadium, Oslo, Norway. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 26, 2012. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to FA restrictions. Editorial use only. Commercial use only with prior written consent of the FA. No editing except cropping. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 or see www.paphotos.com/info/ for full restrictions and further information.

ENGLAND doesn’t expect.

Now there’s a lazy line we’ve seen pedalled around in recent weeks.

The thing is, England always expects, hence the birth of the mantra in the first place.

And come five o’clock on Monday, with pubs, clubs and living rooms centred on their television screens, a nation will once again believe.

For defeat against France and subsequent failure to emerge from the group stage will not merely prompt a resigned shrug of the shoulders, there will be anger, inquest and dejection.

Regardless the merits of the team, abundant or meagre, a major tournament has never once failed to capture the imagination within these shores.

And why shouldn’t it?

England can win Euro 2012.

Now that, we must admit, is not a well-held theory at this juncture, for already-sizeable odds on lifting the trophy have lengthened further given the injury-induced vexations of recent weeks.

But then Chelsea were never once favourites to lift the Champions League, even during the entirety of last month’s final against Bayern Munich.

What they had, however, was a plan. In the past, the tactic with England was simply to select the best 11 players, those of the Golden Generation, and pitch them into battle expecting their superior quality to win through.

It didn’t work.

In 2004 and then again in 2006, England’s tournament-disposed party watched on from their homes as teams of lesser talent, but boasting that elusive gameplan, strode to victory in the Euros and World Cup, in the cases of Greece and Italy respectively.

But now, with England minus that collection of lauded superstars, boss Roy Hodgson will revert to efficiency, rather than rely on that apparent, superior proficiency.

There will, like Chelsea, be a plan, under Hodgson of that you can be sure.

It won’t be one for the purist.

And while this is unlikely to excite, England could just spoil their way to the latter stages, by which point the sole source of true inspiration, Wayne Rooney, will be free of suspension.

In the meantime they must first negotiate France, Sweden and hosts, Ukraine.

The opener, against Les Bleus, is ideally timed. A cagey draw is the most likely outcome.

Defeat leaves England in no doubt as to their task in the remaining two group matches, while victory would see them plant one boot in the last eight.

And they should see it through to the quarter-finals.

For while we have previously played down the individual assets of this squad, it is still one which boasts the likes of Joe Hart, arguably the best goalkeeper at the Euros, Ashley Cole, unarguably the best left-back, Steven Gerrard, the captain capable of competing with the very best, Ashley Young and Theo Walcott, jet-heeled wingers with a capacity to unnerve, Andy Carroll, unplayable on his day, and, of course, Rooney.

Other competitors, don’t forget, are not without their woes.

Well-fancied Group B rivals Germany and Holland are suspect in defence and both conceded heavily in recent warm-up matches.

Italy enter into the tournament amid the smear of yet another match-fixing scandal – dawn raids on your team hotel and the arrest of your starting left-back is far from ideal.

World and European champions Spain are minus the man who top scored at the World Cup, David Villa, and reliance on Fernando Torres is undoubtedly a risk.

Elsewhere, Portugal will do well to escape from that “Group of Death” with the Dutch and the Germans, while France’s impressive forward line is built on weak foundations.

And that is why Hodgson’s boys will win Euro 2012. England expects, or I do, at least.