Sky Sports News yesterday were very down; no more domestic football to enthrall the viewers but hold on the next best thing was today. Yes, you guessed right – it was the day that England, Wales and Republic of Ireland decided to put the fringe players out of their misery and name their Euro 2016 squads. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the squads.
Republic of Ireland
Turner’s Cross in Cork was splendidly turned out, it was shame therefore that the Republic of Ireland team produced a rather flat and uninspiring performance against a Belarus side where Alexander Hleb oozed class throughout. Shortly after 10:40pm GMT, the squad was announced and to be frank there were no real surprises in the side.
Harry Arter would have being a lock in the squad but for injury sustained against the Netherlands last Friday. The unfortunate injury opened the door for the likes of Stephen Quinn and David Meyler to get into the final squad. Neither will get significant game minutes but Meyler may be required to shore up the flanks if called upon. McGoldrick’s injury woes this season even though the player showed flashes of potential for country put paid to his chances.
Robbie Keane on one leg was always going to be brought tonight much to Sky Sports News disappointment. The performance of Daryl Murphy tonight was abject and it is no wonder that O’Neill has decided to bring Keane as the options upfront apart from Shane Long are quite limited. I would expect James McClean to realistically be ahead of Murphy in the striker depth chart after tonight.
The unfortunate omission was probably David Forde who at the start of this campaign was the number one keeper but a loss in form and the emergence of Jordan Archer for Millwall meant that the Galway native was confined to Johnstone Paint Trophy cameos and even then did not go well. Kieren Westwood’s performances for Sheffield Wednesday this season have being superb and his display last weekend in Wembley cemented his place.
I sensed that Westwood thought he was packing his bags when Forde got game time tonight but the Republic of Ireland management have gone with a keeper in form and playing regular club football to give Randolph the competition required. Shay Given’s inclusion was fortunate considering the circumstances. His cameo for the second Belarus goal tonight was unflattering, flat footed prior to the shot being deflected. There are lingering questions on match fitness. Is the knee fully fit? I doubt if Given will be given game time in this tournament.
O’Neill is hoping that Coleman, McCarthy, Keane will be fit throughout the tournament. It is a risk but considering the options at his disposal, the dice had to be thrown on all three players. Coleman is a massive player for the side. Christie tonight looked out of sorts and could be well exposed in the pool stages. Robbie Keane will probably play a cameo role off the bench. Long will lead the line and McClean showed tonight that he is capable of making running behind defenses. Keane’s game management and ability to poach a goal from nothing will be crucial for the team in the pool stages.
Loyalty was rewarded to a certain extent with the inclusion of Aiden McGeady; a player who struggled for first team football this season but his vital goal against Georgia away was ultimately rewarded with a place on the plane to France. McGeady’s pace out wide could be an asset but whether he will get a chance in the tournament is a big question.
O’Neill has announced his squad. The team lineup to play Sweden will be along familiar lines unless Shane Duffy makes a compelling case to replace Keogh at the heart of the defense. Things will have to go Republic’s way to get out of this pool. The lack of creativity in the final third is a concern even though Hoolahan and Brady are in the squad. The loss tonight may be a blessing indisguise; dampen down expectation and reduce the pressure on the players.
Roy Hodgson has done a Sven Goran on it; named an eighteen year old to join the squad on work experience. If people think that Marcus Rashford will get any game time, think again. Rashford has the pace and attributes to cause defenses issues in this tournament but with the likes of Kane, Vardy, Rooney and Sturridge ahead in the pecking order, the Manchester United youngster will be there for the experience. A wasted squad selection pick if you ask me.
The squad looks distinctly light in the defensive department. The central defense area in particular will be an area to exploit. Smalling and Cahill will be the first choice center backs but if anything were to force either unavailable for selection, then Roy will be in a pickle. John Stones has not progressed this season, good footballer but plays in the wrong area. Does Roy decide to drop Erik Dier back into the center back position, a role he rarely played for Tottenham last season. Plenty could go wrong for England defensively and it is a distinct minus for their chances of advancing deep in this tournament.
Danny Drinkwater can consider himself unlucky not to get into the squad. Wilshere’s inclusion is hilarious; no significant game time for Arsenal this seasson and trying to prove his fitness at the end of May is not what an international manager should be contending with. Jordan Henderson has had an average season. His statistics when compared with Drinkwater are well down.
Who in this England midfield will make a tackle? All England central midfield options selected made less than fifty tackles last season. Drinkwater made 101 tackles. There is a question mark on the work rate in this central midfield area and I sense Rooney will be asked to drop deep and try to control games from central midfield. Andros Townsend is yet again the fall guy of the squad, had a good end to the season with Newcastle and his pace would have posed problems. Dele Ali and Ross Barkley will need to step up to provide the creativity required. Barkley showed little in the league this year.
Roy Hodgson’s attacking options look decent. Vardy’s pace and power will be an asset ad Kane predatory instinct in front of goal if provided with adequate service will mean England will advance to at least the last eight of this competition. Sturridge if match fit could also provide a cameo off the bench; a moment of magic to unlock a defense. The issues in central defense and midfield are gaping and expect opponents to try to run at England in the pool stages.
Let us not beat around the bush. Chris Coleman may emphasize about team spirit and morale in the next couple of weeks but ultimately it all depends on Gareth Bale. Are Wales capable of providing adequate service to their talisman and be defensively hard to beat? Bale pace and power will pose defenses massive problems.
The squad was predictable in nature. Joe Ledley’s miraculous broken leg recovery lends more to the fact that Coleman has no other player in the current squad that can do the job that Joe Ledley does; box to box player with enormous work rate.
Plenty will also rest on the shoulders of Ashley Williams; the defense will be asked stern questions by both England and Russia and Williams need to marshal his troops superbly for Wales to have any chance of pool group progression. In Bale, Wales will trust.
Let the Manchester United Carrington Training Ground search for Bastian conclude. He has being selected for the Germany squad, we found the legend. A surprise decision but Joachim Loew needed experience in his midfield with the withdrawal of Reus. Bastian when fit is a superb player but how many games did he play for United this year? A squad which oozes class but can opponents exploit Boateng defensively, an intriguing clash with Poland in the pool stages will indicate this answer.