For many followers, ballooned by a biennial dose of unreasonable expectations, nothing less than lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 11 will constitute success for England over the next month.
And yet as Gareth Southgate’s team count down the final hours before beginning their campaign against Croatia on Sunday afternoon there remains too many question marks for an objective observer to class them as Tier 1 contenders irrespective of the bookmakers making them second favourites behind France.
For all the attacking talent at the manager’s disposal, a surfeit of wide players and No10s in addition to one of the world’s top two No9s, lack of depth in other departments is too much of a red flag. France, Portugal and Belgium all have better balanced groups.
Southgate, of course, likes versatility. When asked to explain his reasoning behind picking four right backs in his initial 26-man squad, the manager said that he only sees four very good footballers before listing out other roles they could be deployed in.
But options are not necessarily always welcome in a competition where solidity so often trumps fluidity. Forty-eight hours out from their first game, no one apart from Southgate, his coaching staff and perhaps the players can be certain of the line up and system.
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It sounds like he is edging towards a back three, potentially accommodating four players who are mostly used as full backs in club football, but this is not a game in which predicted teams are going to be nailed on.
First, the midfield. That doubts remain from some quarters around Declan Rice’s talent is a folly but much rests on Jordan Henderson being fit enough to partner the West Ham United star. Rice, as proven at West Ham, requires a partner – and that rules out Southgate going for a 4-3-3 with two forward-thinking No8s.
Henderson said earlier this week…