Football Expert & Columnist
Superior to Sweden
Jamie Redknapp says England are simply better than Sweden, despite a lack of midfield options.
Last Updated: 15/06/12 10:47am
It was a pleasant surprise for everybody to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain start against France and I can only see him getting better and better in this tournament.
He had a nearly game, if you like, on Monday. He nearly beat two players and broke through. He had a couple of great passes that nearly came off. There were times when his crosses nearly landed on an England head. He was very close and I think he has a really bright future.
I'm really happy that Roy Hodgson played him because it gives us a completely different approach, but at times you have to let him go. There's no point making him play defensively all the time; we need him to be the player who can stretch the play.
We need to be able to give him the ball and let him take us 30 or 40 yards up the pitch. That will give the likes of Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker and John Terry a bit of a break because he's a devastating player with devastating pace. We need to make the most of the ability he has.
I would definitely start him again against Sweden and a lot will depend on how he does in that game. If he looks like a world beater then he'll probably keep his place for the rest of the competition.
But we have to remember this is his first major tournament and it will be mentally and physically demanding for him. If he looks a little lethargic I can see Ashley Young moving to the left-hand side for the final group game with Wayne Rooney coming into the role behind Danny Welbeck.
As long as everything goes well fitness-wise, that's the only change I can see in the next two games. There isn't really much else Hodgson can do and I think we'll see the same XI against Sweden.
Too much for midfield?
There is a worry for Hodgson in the centre of midfield because I felt the workload for Gerrard and Parker was far too heavy against France.
To play with two in midfield in international football is very, very difficult. They worked so hard and at times I thought they did more than they actually had to do. As a former midfield player myself, I felt for them because it was two against three and every time they closed down one French midfielder they'd just pop it off to the next one. There was a lot of work for those players.
That's where it would have been nice to have someone like Gareth Barry or Frank Lampard to take the load off them because Gerrard and Parker looked physically drained by the end of the match.
But I don't see what else Hodgson can do. Phil Jones can't get into the Manchester United midfield, so it's a big ask for him to go and play there for England; and Jordan Henderson is getting some great experience, but I don't think he's close to Gerrard and Parker at the moment.
In an ideal world we'll have the game wrapped up after 70 minutes and we can take one of them off, but I don't think that will be the case. Hodgson would bite your hand off now if you offered him a 1-0 win.
I think those players just need to be organised and they need to be ready. If Parker and Gerrard have to last the 90 minutes then so be it; we'll ask the questions afterwards.
At the moment it's a case of needs must because we haven't got the personnel.
People are asking if there are goals in this team, but we haven't seen enough goals from England teams for a long time in major tournaments.
We only scored three goals at the last World Cup - shared between Gerrard, Jermain Defoe and Matthew Upson - and while I wouldn't deny that Rooney is a world-class player, even he hasn't scored at a major tournament since Euro 2004.
So it's a case of everybody chipping in. If it comes to Joleon Lescott or John Terry scoring from a set-piece then let's not complain about that. We are a physically strong side and we can be very good in those situations.
I like Welbeck up front too. I've said all along that he is our best option in that position. I prefer him to Andy Carroll because he has more about his play and midfielders can link up with him or play off him. He's a very good player and I think he'll do a job for us during this tournament. He is 11/2 to open the scoring with Sky Bet.
As for Rooney, I imagine he is appreciating what it's like to be a footballer more than ever. He's probably sat on the bench dying to get on and get amongst it.
Things have always come very easy for Wayne; he's always been guaranteed to be picked, but he's had to sit and watch everybody else so far.
I hope when he comes back that he uses that as a real positive.
Time to show our style
I don't think Ukraine's win over Sweden was the ideal result for us. It has made Friday night a must-win game and if we lose it I think we'll have to accept an early exit.
But on the other hand, it's also a game that Sweden need to win or else they could well be going home. Normally they would look to soak up the pressure and hit us on the counter-attack, but they will need to go forward. That means we can counter them - and that should suit us because we have pace up front and in the wide areas.
Hodgson is very good at setting teams up to not get beat, but when he makes his team talk against Sweden then yes, they have to be organised, but also they can't forget to play a bit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only Sweden player that would get into our team - you sense that their nation's hopes rest on him - so let's not be afraid and show what we're about.
No disrespect to Anders Svensson, but I was with him at Southampton a long time ago. He was a nice lad and a good player, but he was a sub for Southampton and he wouldn't get near an English Premier League team now. Yet he came on for 30 minutes in Sweden's opening game of Euro 2012!
England's team are all a level above that and that's why Hodgson must stress to his players that they need to play with belief. Tactics are one thing, but making players believe is another - and that's probably more important than anything else.
Under Fabio Capello it couldn't have been much worse. There was a guy who couldn't speak English, but now we have a manager who is engaging in dialogue with his players. Football isn't rocket science; you need to talk to the players, look them in the eye and tell them when they do well. A manager's players are an extension of himself, so he has to involve himself and from what I can see, Hodgson looks like he's done that.
We're better than them, we have more options than they have and there's nothing to be afraid of. I'm not being patriotic or trying to claim that we're better than we are, but despite all of our problems, we have to believe we can go and beat Sweden.
A draw would be a nightmare for us. We've got to go and win this game and I fancy us to win 2-1. They've got a goal in them, but I think we're a better team and we'll win this game. We can then go and play the Ukraine full of confidence with Rooney back in the side.
England to beat Sweden 2-1 is 15/2 with Sky Bet.