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England’s hopes for Euro 2016 to be tested this weekend

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith a fairly empty footballing summer ahead of us in 2015 [apart from the Copa América, Women’s World Cup, and European Under 21s!  – Ed.], it is a good time look forward to the 2016 European Championships.

After a bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign from the three lions, England fans can only hope that the Euros next summer can be a greater success, and give the English fans something to celebrate.

If we look back to Kiev in 2012 it was an unlucky showing after a 0-0 draw with Italy, followed by Ashley Young and Ashley Cole’s penalty misses, whilst Andrea Pirlo added insult to injury to infuriate England fans with his well-remembered Panenka penalty. England fans were then embarrassed further when you look back to last summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

Watching fans were disappointed to see England only net twice across 3 group games. The first of these against the familiar opponents of Italy in Manaus, where Pirlo again was to be remembered for his dummy of the ball at a corner which led to Claudio Marchisio’s low strike to the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s goal. Soon after however, Daniel Sturridge, the in-form striker – after his most successful Premier League season to date, netted against Gianluigi Buffon to bring England level at 1-1. This was not long lived, as Mario Balotelli then scored the winner to give the three lions a poor start in Brazil.

This was followed up five days later in São Paulo with a 2-1 loss at the hands of a Luis Suárez inspired Uruguay side, with Steven Gerrard’s late header playing former Liverpool team-mate through on goal to take the points from England, leaving England with almost no chance of progression to the knock out stages. The highlight of the tournament for England fans would have to have been taking a point from the surprise group winners Costa Rica in a 0-0 bore draw.

As many national fans wait for the hotly contested European championships of next summer, is it the right time to remind those following England that the only major tournament ever won by the famous three lions was the 1966 World Cup? This is an embarrassing statistic to have as we hail the English game as one of the best in the world.

However, is it finally England’s time to show how good we can be as a nation? Could the youthful likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and others burst onto the international scene alongside the more experienced Gary Cahill, Joe Hart and Wayne Rooney? As England’s current youth are growing stronger and by next summer with all of these young names a year more experienced, could it be our time, or will the likes of France, Germany and The Netherlands be too much for us to contest with?

As Roy Hodgson has recently picked his 23 man squad for the March qualifiers and friendlies against Lithuania and Italy, the only surprise inclusion is the Spurs breakthrough central midfielder: Ryan Mason. With his début season after breaking into the Tottenham first team going extremely well and the injuries to Adam Lallana and Jack Wilshere, the 23 year old is set to get his first England appearance this Friday.

With the expected line up of: Hart, Walker, Jagielka, Cahill, Baines, Henderson, Carrick, Milner, Rooney, Sterling and Kane, England will be hoping to take a step closer to Euro qualification with a win over Lithuania this Friday before gaining revenge over an Italy side that has got the better over us in recent meetings.

Many will be eager to see the beloved three lions gain momentum leading up to the European Championships, and some may even believe that we can bring home the trophy itself next summer.

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