England take the plunge in Euro 2012 when they face France on Monday, and the tournament kicks off tomorrow as hosts Poland play Greece. The Star asked local personalities for their views on the biggest football competition outside the World Cup.
MEL Sterland believes that England could reach the Euro 2012 semi-finals and confound their critics.
Although general expectations about the country’s chances have been lower than for other recent tournaments, the former Owls star thinks that youthful exhuberance could spark a surprise.
Sterland feels that young players, for example Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, son of former Hillsborough winger Mark Chamberlain, can help to make the Three Lions fearless.
“Some people are saying England aren’t good enough - I’m not so sure; you never know what you’re going toget from us, but I’m thinking we might get to the semis,” he said.
“It’s a new manager with new ideas; he’s freshened it up and brought young players in; I do like that.”
The former England right back says that Oxlade-Chamberlain reminds him of dad Mark, a winger of the Eighties.
“He exciting, he’s got pace and he’s not scared; it great when you see someone get a chance and enjoy it,” he said.
“I played with his dad and he does remind me of Mark. His movement is good and he’s a good crosser.”
Sterland feels that the absence of Rio Ferdinand is no blow to England’s chances: “I think’s he’s gone, to be honest.
“The new manager has come in and made his decisions. He just seems to have got on with it and not really moaned about anything.
“A lot of people are thinking England aren’t going to go far in this tournament. I just think there might be a surprise.”
Sterland finds it hard to look further than Spain for the winners but he expects Germany to do well.
“Germany are always quiet in the build-up to a competition but then they’re always there or thereabouts,” he said.
Wednesday legend Chris Waddle believes that Euro 2012 will produce standards that would be hard to better.
“You’ve always got Brazil and Argentina, and Uruguay are strong just now, but apart from that I don’t think there’s anyone else in the world that would make the tournament much stronger; I think it will be a good tournament,” says the former England winger.
“It’s the first tournament I can remember where hardly anybody expects us to do anything.
“I think a lot of people accept that if we get out of the group we’ll have done well.”
England play France on Monday, Sweden the following Friday and Ukraine on the Tuesday after that.
Former Sheffield United striker Neil Shipperley thinks Hodgson’s men will scrape out of Group D but believes their style of football will not be “exciting”.
Shipperley said: “I think Roy Hodgson will be, in the long term, a very good England manager but he likes his sides to be very organised so I don’t think we are going to have a lot of flair.
“I don’t think we will be playing football which will put bums on seats.
“I believe we will draw the first two games and then beat Ukraine when we have Wayne Rooney back. We have a good squad and I think we have a great chance of making the semi-finals.
“In all honesty, I don’t think England will be that exciting to watch and I think Euro 2012 will be boring but I hope I am wrong.”
Shipperly, who featured prominently when United gained promotion to the top flight in 2006, is backing France to perform well.
He said: “France have gone 22 games without defeat and that is a massive thing going into a tournament. They are a magnificent team, can score goals and I think they could be dangerous.”
Chesterfield great Dave Caldwell is tipping Germany to triumph.
The-Scottish former striker said: “I think the group and future rounds give them [Germany] an easier passage. They’re always hard to beat and have some great young players who will take the stage this year.”
Of England’s prospects, he said: “They will have the nation’s expectations on their shoulders. They are natural targets for any progressive team who fancy their chances in the early rounds, but if they can win their group then Italy may be the team they need to beat to progress.
“Coming second may pitch them against Spain, which could be fatal.”