Group E: ENGLAND, San Marino, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Switzerland.
As I'm sure you are all aware England's Euro 2016 Qualification group is rather favourable and aside from any major dramas England look as though they will qualify. But have we been here before? An 'easy' qualification group in the build up to a major tournament does have its benefits, chiefly building confidence and offering the chance to test fringe players in a competitive fixture. But is this what England need?
Roy Hodgson has confirmed that he is 'very happy' with the draw, particularly as England have avoided any significant pitfalls. It may seem odd, but I however am not happy.
I'm personally of the opinion that in recent years an overly-confident approach from many of England's so called 'Golden Generation' has cost us when faced with good opposition. It is all well and good thrashing San Marino's citizens 8-0, but unsurprisingly the teams appearing at the major finals are better than San Marino. Does playing such a level of opposition only harm our chances in the long run? On paper England should be capable of beating many of Europe's elite when it comes to the major stages, yet we persistently fail, (too often on penalties).
As a result I was keen to see at least one major contender in our group to give one or two of the egos a kick up the backside. Facing another uninspiring qualification campaign we risk conforming to the seemingly endless cycle of England failure, this being 'Qualify relatively easily for tournament-Get though group stage-Lose to a better side.' But how can we break this cycle? Quite simply we must play better opposition more often.
The national media seem relatively content with England's group, labelling it 'simple', without acknowledging the detrimental effect this may potentially have on the national side. As jpmcgrath's article 'The Downside to England’s Euro 2016 Draw' detailed earlier this week, such an easy draw will impact the interest from fans. Couple this with a passive attitude from players who have seemingly conquered similar groups to this previously and England face a real problem. I do not believe that England should celebrate avoiding Europe's elite, as on paper England should have no issue competing with such teams. I have no doubt that any side in Europe and possibly the world would welcome players like Rooney and Sturridge, yet as a team and a nation we appear to have shied into a mind-set whereby we celebrate playing some of the minnows of European football, rather than welcoming testing ourselves against the best.
This is of course rather futile considering that we have no control over the group draw, but surely as a team and a nation we should strive in the future to play the best and not sulk into an expected failure whenever we meet a top side. Therefore, at both the World Cup this year and the next European tournament we must approach it with an altered mind-set. It is likely no coincidence that at the previous World Cup Serbia managed to beat Germany 1-0, whilst we crashed out to them 4-1. Did Serbia beat Germany because they were better than them? No. It was arguably down to a positive attitude whereby Serbia did not fear their opposition, instead welcoming the chance to test themselves against the best. As an England fan I hope we can take a similar attitude forward.
I am not saying that England are the greatest side in the world, but merely that we should not fear the best and should not celebrate an 'easy' group draw. We are good enough whether we want to believe it or not.