Sharethematch.com ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to Mancunian Matters…
England’s exit from Euro 2012 has been met with the usual moans and groans about the state of football in this country but I will buck the trend and say there are plenty of positives to take away this time.
Obviously losing on penalties is heartbreaking but if we look at it another way, to win their group without losing a game when no one gave them a prayer of doing so was a great achievement – many people predicted that they wouldn’t even get out of it.
But the big disappointment for Roy Hodgson will be that they didn’t really play against Italy, that they didn’t impose themselves on the game.
They didn’t grab it by the scruff of the neck and say ‘we’re as good as you, Italy’ – they were a bit submissive instead.
There were a lot of positives for England though – the young players gained experience which is a bonus, and England know they’re an organised team that can defend.
But Roy knows he has to make England better and different when they have the ball, and I think he’ll do that.
Roy’s not a stupid man – he’s an intelligent, diligent, international manager of great experience who has the job he’s craved all of his life, and I don’t think he’s going to be so stubborn as to not know that he has to change a few things.
I will be surprised if Roy changes his back five – they were fantastic throughout the tournament and they will all still be very good in the near future.
But I do think he will tinker with his midfield and his attack – the likes of Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can become important figures in this side
As to who will meet Spain in Sunday’s final, Germany will start as big favourites for me but we know Italy will put up a show and won’t be beaten easily.
We saw that in their opening draw with Spain – people need to keep that in mind if they think this is going to be a walk in the park, because Germany will have to play very well to win.
Everyone is saying Germany must watch out for Andrea Pirlo but I don’t think he’s been magnificent in this tournament.
Yes he was brilliant in the quarter-final but that was more to do with England’s failing than Pirlo’s skill – I don’t think the Germans are going to allow him the time and space to receive the ball, get his head up, saunter about and pick passes.
They will close him down much more quickly. He will find it very difficult to have the same kind of influence in the game that he had against England.
It will be very tight but as a neutral I’m desperate to see this young German side who haven’t won anything yet lock horns with this experienced, trophy-laden Spanish team in the final.
I admire the way both teams play, but I think Germany may have the advantage because they’re just a little bit more direct.
They have all the talent of the Spanish side with some great midfielders, but in Mario Gomez they have something I don’t think Spain have at the moment.
Andy Gray is an official ambassador for Sharethematch.com – Football’s Social Network. Available now for FREE online or at the App Store; http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/share-the-match/id450784289?mt=8