After a miserable Summer with an abject World Cup display, it’s difficult for even the biggest optimist to get excited about England’s chances of reaching Euro 2016, let alone getting their hands on the trophy.
The Summer was followed by a drab friendly against Norway, watched by the lowest crowd for an International in the new Wembley. That crowd were treated to a fortuitous victory, some slapstick defending and some pretty toothless attacking. Our record before that game was 1 win in 6 matches, and our slide down Fifa’s world rankings is much publicised and sees us lying 20th behind the footballing might of Greece, Costa Rica, Croatia, Mexico and even Bosnia & Herzegovina.
But is it all so bad? Well probably not. All stats are there to be twisted, and how bad does the current stat of 2 losses in 9 games sound? On Monday night England beat Switzerland 2-0 away, the top seed in the group and also ranked 9th in the FIFA rankings. UEFA have also decided to expand the Euro 2016 tournament to include 24 teams meaning that the top 2 teams from each group qualify, and there are play-offs for the third place teams. When we look at previous qualification groups the likelihood is that 16 points will see you into a play-off and 18 points should see you qualify.
Danny Welbeck opens the scoring against the 9th best team in World Football!
England have 100% records against San Marino and Estonia and would be confident of maintaining both of those, so that would leave them needing 3 points from their home games against Lithuania, Slovenia and Switzerland. All in all, following an excellent first result, qualification should be straightforward. Whilst we’re tempted to say ‘Yeah, but this is England – anything can happen’ we should try and remember that they have a pretty reliable record in qualifying.
What happens if and when they get to France is another matter totally, and the chances of Wayne Rooney getting his hands on any silverware haven’t improved on the back of one win against Switzerland!