As such, the team has been able to slip somewhat under the radar, and I believe this has been one of the main factors in England finishing top of the group, ahead of a tough France team and one of the tournament holders Ukraine, and a Sweden team that failed to deliver in this year’s Euros despite running England close when the two teams met last Friday.
The 1-1 draw against France proved to be a stepping stone for bigger and better things; gaining a 3-2 win against Sweden after going ahead courtesy of Andy Carroll and then coming from behind late on after Sweden proved a tough match. Nevertheless, England’s resilience and Hodgson's ‘get the job done’ attitude served them well, and when a point was needed against co-hosts Ukraine England went one better and picked up all three with Wayne Rooney scoring on his return to action, with the helping hand of a little bit of luck and lack of goal line technology.
After doing all they could in the group stages England now face an Italy side boasting the likes of experience Antonio Di Natale and bright young talent in Mario Balotelli who helped Manchester City to win the Premier League title. Hodgson has built a team that is more than comfortable in pulling off a result against Cesare Prandelli’s Italians. And after getting the job done in the group stages you still feel there is still more to come from England, which is immensely encouraging; finishing top of group D was a good achievement, but England didn’t play their best football, nor did some of the players step up to the mark; namely Ashley Young, a talent who has somewhat failed to perform to the best of his abilities, and Rooney who, after sitting out the first two matches of the tournament, scored on his return and definitely has more to offer his England side.
With more hope than expectation being placed upon the shoulders of the England team this year, the lack of media pressure may have finally struck a balance and made the team a little more relaxed. The team will need to step up in order to progress, but I’m more confident that manager Hodgson can motivate them to do so. Who knows how far this new look England can go; hopefully all the way.