Jun 032016

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Roy Hodgson says England not the finished article

England put in a “worrying performance” in their Euro 2016 warm-up victory over Portugal, says ex-defender Danny Mills.

Chris Smalling’s late header secured a 1-0 victory over 10-man Portugal at Wembley on Thursday.

But Roy Hodgson’s side, playing with a diamond formation, created few chances in their final match before their Euros opener against Russia on 11 June.

“There are many square pegs in round holes. I am not sure what system Roy is playing,” Mills told BBC Radio 5 live.

Where should Rooney play?

Forwards Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy started an England game together for the first time, with Rooney in a number 10 role behind a Kane-Vardy strike partnership.

Tottenham’s Dele Alli played on the left of midfield and James Milner on the right.

Vardy made only eight passes in the game and did not manage an attempt on goal, while Rooney and Kane had one attempt each.

“There were three centre-forwards on the pitch going for the same ball, in the same space. I don’t get it. You are taking away from all those players all their strengths,” said Mills.

“Rooney is taking away from Kane’s position and Alli’s position.

“There is a place for Rooney in this side, but it’s not in the position he’s in at the moment.

“You have to play Kane up front as the number nine, Alli in the 10 role and if Rooney has to play deeper or wide, he’s good enough to play that role.”

Hodgson defends ‘split’ strikers

Tottenham’s Kane and Leicester’s Vardy scored 49 Premier League goals between them this season, but neither had many opportunities to receive the ball in the penalty box and were often found in wide areas.

“We played with split strikers,” Hodgson said. “When you play with that system, you need your strikers to split.

“If you play with them going down the middle and Rooney in behind them, you would never be able to defend the wide areas.

“There were moments in the game where they were too wide, but basically speaking their job is to split and come together.”

Rooney expects an improvement

Captain Rooney, 30, who was replaced by Adam Lallana after 78 minutes, said England struggled to break down their opponents after Bruno Alves was sent off in the 35th minute for a high challenge on Kane.

But England won all three of their Euros warm-up matches, after victories over Australia and Turkey.

“They made it difficult but we kept going and we got the win, so that was obviously important to us,” Rooney told ITV Sport.

“We are winning games when we are not playing well. We have to improve and in tournament football you have to improve to win games.”

Who do you think should start at Euro 2016? Step into Roy Hodgson’s shoes and pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our brand new team selector.

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Jun 032016
Rooney, Vardy and Kane played together for the first time against Portugal

England’s warm-up matches before Euro 2016 are complete – but manager Roy Hodgson was left with as many questions as answers after a narrow win over Portugal at Wembley.

Hodgson’s full strategy will only be revealed when he names his line-up for the opening fixture against Russia in Marseille on 11 June and he will be pleased England’s players emerged unscathed from their final warm-up game.

There was no clear evidence, however, that Hodgson has yet put a winning game plan in place.

So what are the key questions Hodgson must answer as he puts the finishing touches to his game plans for Euro 2016?

Is Rooney causing muddled thinking?

Wayne Rooney’s presence in England’s team has been a constant narrative for the last two years – and his role in the side at Wembley seemed to cause their main weapons to be disarmed.

Rooney was being used as the central figure, albeit lying deep, in an attacking triumvirate with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

Kane and Vardy scored 49 Premier League goals between them for Tottenham and champions Leicester City but it is hard to see how they could have a serious impact on Euro 2016 employed as they were against Portugal.

Rooney appeared to be deputed at the tip of a diamond when the teamsheet dropped but as he drove through the middle, Vardy and Kane were pushed wider and wider to the point where they could have taken a seat in the stands.

If they line up together in France, England’s opponents will be delighted to see them occupying positions where much of their threat is nullified and their presence marginalised. They are not wingers, never will be and Hodgson is wasting them in those roles.

Vardy made eight passes and did not have a serious threat on goal – but it was the system rather than the player himself who was to blame. Kane’s only reward for his unfamiliar wide role was when he was almost decapitated by the challenge for which Bruno Alves was sent off.

As for the idea of Kane, England’s main striker, taking corners and free-kicks out wide, it is to be hoped that is put in the dustbin reserved for flawed experiments.

And what about Dele Alli? The 20-year-old Tottenham player was shifted to the left of midfield to ensure Rooney was accommodated centrally and, like Kane and Vardy, had all his best attributes removed by a role unsuited to his talents.

Alli was outstanding playing a progressive central role when England beat world champions Germany in the recent friendly in Berlin but he disappeared down the same hole as Kane and Vardy at Wembley, where England struggled to beat 10-man Portugal, who had Alves sent off after 35 minutes and were without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo.

Alli struggled against Portugal

Kane and Vardy have proved they can adapt to international football in their short careers and Hodgson will be squandering a big opportunity if he does not play them closer together and more centrally located. They were strangers at Wembley.

Hodgson has fine attacking players at his disposal. He must now find the system, unless this was merely late experimentation, to suit them.

There is of course, another option, which would be to drop Vardy, play Rooney as a striker alongside Kane and restore Alli to the number 10 role – but that would be harsh on a striker flying high on confidence.

Once again, Rooney is central to the debate – still a figure of such influence and one Hodgson is determined to shoehorn into his England team.

Will England’s defence hold up?

England kept their first clean sheet since November

There was not much to test England’s unconvincing defence here but there were still one or two anxious moments from set pieces against a Portugal side devoid of ambition without their superstar Ronaldo and operating at a numerical disadvantage for 55 minutes.

Kyle Walker’s man-of-the-match performance pushed his claims for a starting place ahead of Nathaniel Clyne for their Euro 2016 opener against Russia while the selection of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill in the centre of defence and Danny Rose at left-back suggests they will be the preferred options in Marseille.

If Hodgson persists with Kane, Vardy and Rooney, it will be up to Walker and Rose to provide most, if not all, of the natural width. It is a role they can fulfil but the serious test will come when they are pressed defensively.

It will apply to all of England’s back four and there remains an air of vulnerability that may well be exposed against elite opposition in France.

Are England in good shape?

It is worth placing this game in context. England were playing their final game before a major tournament and against a side ranked above them in the Fifa rankings. This was never going to be a no-holds-barred physical encounter as there was too much at risk for both sides.

Hodgson has shown ambition with his attacking selections and the inclusion of 18-year-old Manchester United prodigy Marcus Rashford in the squad but he now has to find a system that does not put square pegs into round holes, as this selection appeared to do.

England have options in the forward positions, with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge also available and the defence looks to be picking itself, however unpalatable the selection in that area might be.

Hodgson will hope that defence exceeds low expectations and he can then devise a formula to utilise England’s strongest assets.

There remains plenty of work to do behind closed doors at England’s training base in Chantilly after they arrive in France.

Who do you think should start at Euro 2016? Step into Roy Hodgson’s shoes and pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our brand new team selector.

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England 1-0 Portugal

 Posted by at 4:07 AM
Jun 032016
Portugal’s Bruno Alves was sent off for a high challenge on Harry Kane

England concluded their preparations for Euro 2016 with a narrow win over 10-man Portugal in a disappointing friendly at Wembley.

Chris Smalling headed England’s winner from substitute Raheem Sterling’s cross with four minutes left as manager Roy Hodgson’s side struggled to break down Portugal, who had Bruno Alves sent off for a wild, high challenge on Harry Kane in the 35th minute.

Only Kyle Walker distinguished himself although Sterling provided a lively cameo off the bench.

The main positive for Hodgson was that there were no fresh injury concerns as he now turns his attention to the Euro 2016 opener against Russia in Marseille on 11 June.

Live reaction to England’s warm-up win over Portugal

England’s flawed system

England’s team sheet looked packed with positive attacking intent – but once they lined up the system looked ill-suited to the team Hodgson had selected.

The biggest victim was Tottenham’s Dele Alli, who looked so outstanding playing in an advanced central role in the 3-2 win against Germany in March, but was out of sorts and shunted to the margins by England’s formation.

Alli was restricted to the left to allow Wayne Rooney to play through the middle, while Jamie Vardy and Kane, with 49 Premier League goals between them this season, barely got within sight of each other all night.

Vardy and Kane were seemingly handed the responsibility of providing width but instead they were stretched so far apart as to be rendered completely ineffective.

The pair have all the makings of a potent partnership but not when they are virtual strangers. It is something Hodgson must work on before England face Russia.

Can Rooney cut it as an England midfield man?

Rooney was as industrious as ever but the muddled manner in which this formation performed will again raise questions about his role in England’s team.

Rooney, 30, brings much to the side but is he really a better bet in the number 10 role than Alli?

That is currently debatable, which leaves him fighting for his place as a striker, although once again the way England set up appeared to confuse the players as much as inspire them.

The Manchester United and England captain can still win games but will Hodgson be brave enough to leave him out when the situation demands it?

Sterling’s confidence boost

Sterling had a difficult first season at Manchester City after his £49m summer move from Liverpool – but there are one or two signs his confidence may be returning.

He was lively in the win against Australia and set up Rooney’s second goal, and here he delivered a perfect cross for Smalling to head England’s late decider.

If Sterling’s confidence-rebuilding process can continue over the next few weeks, then England could find a potent weapon restored at Euro 2016.

More to follow.

Who do you think should start at Euro 2016? Step into Roy Hodgson’s shoes and pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our brand new team selector.

Live Text

Match ends, England 1, Portugal 0.

Second Half ends, England 1, Portugal 0.

Attempt missed. William Carvalho (Portugal) header from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ricardo Quaresma with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Portugal. Conceded by Danny Rose.

Substitution, England. Jordan Henderson replaces Dele Alli.

Substitution, Portugal. Eder replaces Ricardo Carvalho.

Foul by Adam Lallana (England).

Eliseu (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Goal! England 1, Portugal 0. Chris Smalling (England) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Raheem Sterling with a cross following a set piece situation.

Dele Alli (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal).

Corner, England. Conceded by Ricardo Carvalho.

Attempt missed. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Renato Sanches.

Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (England) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jack Wilshere.

Daniel Sturridge (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by André Gomes (Portugal).

Substitution, England. Adam Lallana replaces Wayne Rooney.

Substitution, England. Daniel Sturridge replaces Harry Kane.

Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Danilo Pereira (Portugal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Wayne Rooney (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Danilo Pereira (Portugal).

Jack Wilshere (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Danilo Pereira (Portugal).

Offside, Portugal. Vieirinha tries a through ball, but Renato Sanches is caught offside.

Foul by Raheem Sterling (England).

Renato Sanches (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Portugal. William Carvalho replaces João Moutinho.

Substitution, Portugal. Renato Sanches replaces Adrien Silva.

Foul by Eric Dier (England).

Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Offside, England. Dele Alli tries a through ball, but Wayne Rooney is caught offside.

Substitution, England. Jack Wilshere replaces James Milner.

Substitution, England. Raheem Sterling replaces Jamie Vardy.

Foul by Gary Cahill (England).

André Gomes (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Kyle Walker (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by André Gomes (Portugal).

Attempt saved. Eric Dier (England) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Dele Alli.

Foul by Jamie Vardy (England).

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