Paul Parker

England can’t afford to play for penalties

Paul Parker

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Welbeck and Carroll celebrate against Sweden

England have exceeded the expectations of many by making it through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012, never mind as winners of Group D.

Avoiding a date with Spain in the next round is just reward for finishing above France in their group, but it's not as though facing Italy in Kiev on Sunday is a plum draw.

Irrespective of whoever England were put up against in the last eight, they have to adapt to the different requirements they must meet in the knockout phase. In the group stage, England's attitude was much more focused on being hard to beat. None of their games so far have been what you would call 'must-win' games, but that is exactly what every match from here to the final will be.

England are unlikely to claim victory over the Italians in the manner which saw them beat either Sweden or Ukraine. They will not be able to rely on defending as poor as Sweden's, nor will they be gifted a goal thanks to a goalkeeping error as they were against Ukraine, who really outplayed England in their final group game.

Roy Hodgson must find a way to adapt his team so that they are more capable of winning the match in 90 or perhaps even 120 minutes. Playing for penalties is a contentious strategy for any manager but when you are in charge of England, with their awful record in shootouts, it is well worth avoiding if possible.

Whether Hodgson decides to make a tactical adjustment with the same personnel who started the last game or changes his starting XI remains to be seen.

Bringing in Theo Walcott, as many were calling for following his match-winning cameo against Sweden, would be a risky move in my opinion. He failed to replicate that impact when he came off the bench against Ukraine, so much so that it was easy to forget he had even come on.

Besides, Walcott does not offer much in the way of defensive support for his full-back. That is why James Milner has been preferred to him in each of England's games so far in the tournament. The midfielder may not offer much in the way of creativity but his work rate will be invaluable against Italy, who have a good complement of dangerous attacking players.

Hodgson is likely to leave the attacking brief to the other winger and his two forwards. Wayne Rooney will obviously start, while Ashley Young remains favourite to retain his place on the left wing despite his lacklustre performances so far - although I think it may be worth giving Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain another go.

So if he is to make a change in his starting line-up, it could be that Danny Welbeck is the one to make way for Andy Carroll. England have already shown they have little interest in keeping the ball, and the Liverpool forward would help them get it up into the opposition half quicker and with a greater chance of it staying up there.

It may seem an uninspiring game plan but it worked well for them against Sweden, and with the sort of deliveries Steven Gerrard is serving up at the moment it may be worth a shot.

England are of course not going to morph into a free-flowing attacking force overnight - the secret of their success has been in Hodgson making the players realise and accept their limitations. However, if they are to progress in this competition without relying on winning a penalty shootout for only the second time in their history, they will need to find a way to attack more effectively than they have up to this point.

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