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England’s tight defensive ship

So far at UEFA EURO 2012, England have progressed on the back of some sound defensive organisation, a hallmark of manager Roy Hodgson. The 64-year-old has been in charge of the national team for five games, and England have won four – three of them 1-0.

Many have gone as far as to suggest the team boasts the strongest defence in the competition. Two UEFA Champions League winners in John Terry and Ashley Cole are complemented by Premier League champion Joleon Lescott and the steady Glen Johnson. The back four is propped up by one of the world’s finest goalkeepers, Joe Hart.

Roy Hodgson briefs his players in training on Friday©Getty Images

Roy Hodgson briefs his players in training on Friday

As highlighted in one of my pre-tournament posts, keeping it tight and nicking a goal at the other end is an approach which has worked in the past for the likes of Arsenal FC, Greece and, more recently, Chelsea FC. However, perhaps the best proponents of pragmatic play historically were the Italian sides of the 1980s.

The term Catenaccio, or ‘door-bolt’ in English, was coined to describe the defensive tactical system employed by Azzurri sides of old. These days, Italy are far more flexible, with the classy Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings behind a talented attack featuring players of Antonio Cassano, Antonio Di Natale and Mario Balotelli’s calibre.

Cesare Prandelli’s team showed real quality in their opening 1-1 draw with holders Spain and, based on performances so far at UEFA EURO 2012, defender Leonardo Bonucci reckons it is England who have more in common with his country’s defensive stereotype.

“England have become more like an Italian team thanks to [Fabio] Capello and the other Italian managers in the Premier League,” said the 25-year-old. “They’re defending better and can play on the counterattack.”

Indeed, following Capello’s resignation in February, England appointed another manager with an Italian connection. Hodgson enjoyed two spells with FC Internazionale Milano in the 1990s and later coached Udinese Calcio, although when I spoke to him yesterday, he played down the Serie A influence.

“When I came to Inter they were playing football in a Germanic way,” he explained. “My first task was to change a man-to-man defence with a libero to a zonal back four and a midfield that pressed the opponents. So, in actual fact, I find it a little bit hard to relate to that from my own personal experiences.”

Even so, much like his Fulham FC and West Bromwich Albion FC sides of recent years, Hodgson has built his England team on solid defensive foundations, sacrificing flair in favour of results. Italy are going to pose the strongest threat to their resolve tomorrow, but if the Three Lions can maintain the same level of concentration they have shown so far, perhaps they can beat the Azzurri at what was once their own game.

Source Article from http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/news/blogs/blog=blog_england_team/postid=1803948.html?rss=1803948+England’s+tight+defensive+ship

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