Group D Opener: France v England Preview

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With Rooney’s two match suspension, John Terry’s racism scandal threatening to divide the squad and new manager Roy Hodgson having only 19 days to prepare things are far from ideal as England head into the European Championship. However the situation is a bed of roses when compared with the no show of Euro 2008 in which the idea of a home nations competition was mooted due to the Three Lion's failure to qualify.

Anyone wanting to witness England’s opening game as they look to end forty-six years of hurt in Poland and Ukraine should check out TicketBis for England Euro 2012 Tickets!

Group D Opener - France v England - 11th June 

England face their biggest challenge of the group stage in their opening game against a resurgent France side that could be considered the dark horse of the competition. Les Blues have bounced back after a disastrous World Cup in 2010 under manager Laurent Blanc and they extended their unbeaten run to 18 games with a win against Germany in February.

The runner-up in Group D is likely to face defending European Champions Spain in the second round, so neither side will want to slip up and the opening game between the two favourites could also serve as the group decider. With Wayne Rooney serving the first game of a two match suspension Hodgson will have to decide which out of Carroll, Defoe and Wellbeck will offer the greatest goalscoring threat in his favoured 4-4-2 formation.

Hodgson will have little time for experimentation in the two international friendlies before the competition and France manager Laurent Blanc feels there will be no tactical surprises in store when he pits his wits against the former West Brom manager. Speaking to the Times, Blanc stated: 'We know him well from the campaign with Fulham to the Europa League final, We know his system, his philosophy.'

'We know he has a preference for 4-4-2, but it’s different from club to country. We’ll have to watch those friendly games to see how he’s going to line up. I’ve seen the squad. I know them all. England will be a tough opponent, but I don’t think there will be big surprises.'

The French have had the upper hand in recent games against England and are unbeaten in their last five games, winning four of those matches.The last time the two side met in group stage of Euro 2004 France were victorious thanks to two late goals from Zinedine Zidane.

If you’re looking to buy Premier League tickets online, you can get them from TicketBis, an online tickets exchange that specialises in helping football fans buy and sell tickets online for just about any game in Europe.

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The King is Dead, Long Live King Beni [picture]

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When Kenny Dalglish replaced Roy Hodgson as Liverpool manager in January 2011 he admitted he faced a ‘big challenge’, but it was expected that the Kop legend would be allowed a long spell on his Liverpool throne.

King Kenny had waited 20 years to make his comeback special at Anfield, but after delivering Liverpool’s worst Premiership finish in 18 years he was given his marching orders by American owners Fenway Sports Group.

Swayed by the will of the Liverpool fans FSG followed the managerial selection template previously employed at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer, by appointing a terrace hero in an attempt to revive the glory days.

Reaching the FA Cup Final and securing Liverpool's first trophy in  six years by lifting the Carling Cup was not deemed good enough to make up for a dismal Premier League campaign and now the Boston based owners will attempt to find the right man to bring Champions League football back to the club.

Roberto Martinez, Andre Villas-Boas and Fabio Cappello are amongst the favourites to replace King Ken and the club has announced that it will talk to as many as twelve candidates before making a decision, although three of the most popular candidates have already publicly ruled themselves out of contention.

In the wake of Kenny's departure from the club there has been an upsurge in support from the return of another of Liverpool's prodigal son's, Rafa Benitez. The Spaniard is currently unemployed, living in Wirral and like Dalglish is a fan favourite at Anfield.

Is it time for the return of King Beni(tez)?

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Former England Stars Weigh up Hodgson’s Chances

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England legend Alan Shearer has stated that the lack of expectation as Roy Hodgson’s England side prepare for this summer’s tournament in Poland and Ukraine may be of benefit to their prospects, though he is yet to speak to anyone who thinks they are good enough to win it. Many Euro 2012 Betting organisations have England down as favourites to top their group and fourth favourites to win the tournament, but the former England captain see's them going into the competition as underdogs with slim chances of lifting the trophy.

Speaking to BBC Sport Shearer stated that: 'For the first time in a long time England go into a tournament without huge expectations, which might just benefit and help them. In previous tournaments and certainly in tournaments in the last few years everyone including myself have always gone into the tournament saying England can actually win it. I've not met anyone or spoke to anyone who thinks they can win this tournament, which might just work in their favour.'

Phil Neville has also spoken of the diminished expectation for England when compared with previous competitions, but also stated his belief that there is plenty to be positive about as Roy Hodgson takes charge. Neville emphasised the importance of the emerging talent within Hodgson's squad and stated his excitement of the inclusion of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Wellbeck.

'There's always expectation when you go to a major tournament with England but I think that's been dampened by the charge of manager,' said Neville when speaking to BBC Sportsweek. 'I think there's more of a feel good factor going into the tournament than there would have been if Fabio Capello was still involved. I am excited about the young players that are travelling. We've got energy in the team, we've got players who haven't suffered from tournament disappointment, and that's a good point.'

The majority of the England squad will work with Hodgson for the first time at their Manchester base this afternoon where the new manager will begin the 19 days of preparation before the Euro 2012 opener against France on June 11. The former West Brom manager will face his first test in his new role on Saturday evening when England travel to Norway for the first of two international friendlies before the European Championship.

Expectations may have been lowered, but Hodgson will recognise the importance of getting off to a winning start as he leads the Three Lions into a new era.

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Hodgson Unleashes his Lions [picture]

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The unveiling of 23 man squad England will take to Euro 2012 has been met with a mixed reaction, with many highlighting the unspectacular nature of Roy Hodgson’s selection whilst acknowledging that the new England manager had a far smaller pool of talent to choose from than previous managers.

Hodgson has chosen Steven Gerrard to captain his England team and stated that: 'It's not been an easy squad to put together. But I'm pleased with the squad I've put together and I think it's a well-balanced squad.'

One of the main talking points has been the omission of Rio Ferdinand from Hodgson’s squad, though it has generally been accepted that including John Terry at the expense of Rio is the best decision for England with all moral arguments cast aside.

The decision is expected to bring an end to the international career of Ferdinand and Hodgson explained that: 'I selected John Terry for footballing reasons and I left out Rio Ferdinand for footballing reasons. In the last couple of days I've spoken to both of them and explained to them why I've come to the decision.'

Including Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the basis of only six Premier League starts is one of Hodgson’s biggest gambles and there is hope that the 18-year-olds impact in the competition will be more like Michael Owen’s in France 98 than Theo Walcott’s summer vacation at the 2006 World Cup.

The biggest surprise though was the inclusion of Stuart Downing after season at Liverpool in which he recorded 36 Premier League appearances, 0 assists and 0 goals.

Artwork by by Steve Tillotson of Banal Pig comics

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Fergie's Five Minute Makeover [picture]

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Sir Alex is known for being red faced at the best of times, but after having the Premiership title snatched away from his grasp as noisy neighbours Manchester City staged a dramatic extra time come back against QPR on Sunday he was definitely a deeper shade of beetroot.

Sergio Aguero’s goal with just a minute of stoppage time left to play is certain to haunt the nightmares of United fans for years to come and Chief Executive David Gill revealed Fergie had lost sleep on Sunday night due to the seasons conclusion, but began making his bounce back battle plan for next term the next morning.

'He didn’t sleep much on Sunday night. None of us did. He was in the office at 7.30 on Monday morning already thinking about next season,' said Gill at the Premier League 20 Seasons awards yesterday. 'We have to get on with it now. We can’t look back and feel sorry for ourselves. We have started planning for next year. We will come back fresh and I am always confident with this manager.'

Speaking at the United’s Player of the Year awards dinner Fergie stated that moving forward the club would stick with their policy of investing in young players, whilst admitting that they would not be able to compete with the financial might of City in the transfer market.

'We invest in young players, that is what we are good at,' said Ferguson. 'We're not like other clubs who can spend fortunes on proven goods. We know that City are going to spend fortunes, pay stupid money, pay silly salaries and all that. We can't do anything about that. We concentrate on what we can do to try to bring players in for the right reasons.'

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Life in the Old Drog yet [picture]

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Frank Lampard has spoken out in support of fellow Chelsea veteran Didier Drogba, urging his club to agree a new deal with the Ivorian whose current deal expires at the end of the season.

Drogba has already rejected the offer of a 12-month extension to his current contract in the hope he can secure a deal that will keep at the Bridge for a further two years, but the club has so far refused to meet his demands meaning he could be heading towards the exit door this summer.

Since joining from Marseille in 2004 Drogba has been a fan favourite with the Blues thanks to the instrumental role he has played in their successes over recent years and Lamps hailed the contribution he has made during his time at Chelsea whilst emphasising that he is not a spent force.

'I am desperate for him to stay,' said Lampard . "He is a magnificent player. He's a machine. His body is a machine when you look at him stripped down. He's lost no pace, he's lost none of his finishing instinct.'

'But as a man I love Didier and whatever he decides to do, whether he stays or whatever, he has been a hero for this club and will go down as a legend. He is an absolutely fantastic player.'

'The amount of important goals he has got for us in cup finals and big games throughout his career makes him an icon and historical figure at Chelsea, without a doubt.'

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Warnock Meets Diouf [picture]

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Leeds United manager Neil Warnock has refused to rule out making a move for El-Hadji Diouf despite having labelled the controversial striker a 'sewer rat' during his time managing QPR last season.

Diouf recently expressed his desire to join the Elland Road side on a free transfer and believes if given the chance he could establish an effective strike partnership with Luciano Becchio stating: 'Becchio is a good, intelligent player. I'm sure he and I could link up well at Leeds. It would be ideal for me.'

The move would come as a surprise to some considering the bad blood between Diouf and Leeds boss as a result of an incident during QPR's FA Cup clash with Blackburn last January in which Warnock accused the Senegal star of abusing Jamie Mackie while he lay on the pitch with a broken leg.

However when speaking to Sky Sports News Warnock would not be drawn on the reports linking Diouf with a move to Leeds stating: 'You can keep asking me all day but I've said all along we're not going to say anything about speculation.'

'I am hoping to sign my first player tomorrow so that will be the first time I admit to talking to anyone. I'm at Leeds United. It's a club I'm going to do the best I can to bring the right players into the club and you'll have to wait to see if he is one of those targets or not.'

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Has Harry Dodged a Bullet? [picture]

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The news that the FA appointed new England manager Roy Hodgson without having made any approach for tabloid favourite Harry Redknapp came as a shock to many, but the Tottenham boss has insisted he is a 'lucky man' and has no hard feelings about being overlooked.

Speaking ahead of the FA’s appointment Redknapp stated: 'I don't hold grudges, I don't feel like that. There's no problem. If Roy takes the job I wish him all the best. He's a great guy. I'm sure he'll be a big success.'

'I still think England's got some great players, I really do. I think there's some fantastic players in this country, some young players coming through, some great experienced players.'

'I'm looking forward to the European Championships, looking forward to watching it. Life couldn't be better, the sun's shining, my health is good, very lucky man.'

The decision to appoint Hodgson means that Redknapp escapes any potential roasting at the hands of the media that has fell upon previous England managers when the national team inevitably fails to live up to expectations.

Roy Hodgson’s tenure as England manager was barely a day old when he was greeted by a front page headline stating ‘Bwing on the Euwo’s’ in the Sun, cheerfully mocking his speech impediment and providing a taste of things to come.

Redknapp is at present the darling of the press, a position which could have come under threat if he had taken the poison chalice of becoming manager of the perpetually underachieving England team.

Has Harry dodged a bullet on this occasion?

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