Early Doors

England land with low expectations

Early Doors

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Brace yourselves, for it has begun.

England's Euro 2012 squad finally jetted off to Poland on Wednesday as officially the sixth best team in world football and the fourth best in Europe, but expectations of the team's fortunes at a tournament must be at their lowest for three decades or more.

In spite of that, there has still been the traditional fervour whipped up around the squad as they prepared to make the journey from the glamorous environs on Luton airport to their base in Krakow.

There were pictures taken of everyone in their official tournament suits. There was a visit to the headquarters of their official car manufacturer. Manager Roy Hodgson gave his thoughts on his team's Group D opponents in front of branding for the team's official betting partner. No doubt when England boarded their official flight they scoffed their official peanuts whilst watching the official Adam Sandler in-flight movie. Early Doors hates Adam Sandler.

After a full four days of Jubilee-based hysteria, it's almost too much patriotism to handle. Certainly, Wayne Rooney has been unable to contain himself. After weeks of carefully managed restraint and cautious optimism, the England striker has been the one to break ranks and claim England can win the tournament.

"I don't see why we can't win it," said Rooney, who is suspended for the first two games. "We've certainly got the players and the quality.

"We expect big things of ourselves, to come out here and do well. If people don't expect that, it's down to them.

"As long as we expect it of ourselves, we know we're good enough to get to the semi-finals or the final."

Unfortunately, the traditional pre-tournament tub-thumping from England has not been the only rhetoric coming out of the camp before they have even had their first training session.

On a walkabout in Krakow last night shortly after their arrival, FA chairman David Bernstein is still having to deflect questions about the omission of Rio Ferdinand and the inclusion of John Terry.

"We are here to talk about the tournament and about the future and that's it," said Bernstein. "We all want to maximise our chances of doing well and we believe that the focus must be on what's ahead of us - not what is behind us.

"We'd hope you would join us in that, looking forward to do the very best we can with positive thoughts and not dwelling on all these sort of what are now frankly historical, extraneous issues."

Bernstein may like to think of the issue as being in the past, but in truth it is very much in the here and now.

This morning, former England defender Sol Campbell wrote in a column for the Guardian: "If it is ever proven true that John Terry was chosen over Rio because of race then I would tell the FA that they can take back my 73 caps and scrub my name out of the record books."

"I would no longer want to be known as someone who played for England - that would be the end for me."

But this unsavoury is not just one for England to deal with, but one which could have an impact on the whole tournament. UEFA president Michel Platini has been sending out mixed messages regarding racism, confirming that officials have the power to stop matches if players are being racially taunted but that individual players would be disciplined if they took it upon themselves to leave the field.

To top it all off, Dani Pacheco yesterday passed his best wishes to Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson by tweeting "@glen-johnson good luck negrito!!!!", deftly turning tongue-in-cheek into foot-in-mouth before you can say "eight-match ban".

It's enough to make you yearn for stories about psychic animals — at the last count there is a pig, an elephant and a llama all being touted as the next Paul the Octopus — and other such nonsense that journalists already stationed out in Poland and Ukraine have been digging up to keep themselves busy before the football starts.

Early Doors has saved itself until the tournament actually starts before making the journey, and you can follow its adventures as it goes slowly insane in the Ukraine from tomorrow morning.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "My biggest wish is to finish my career in the Boca shirt. I am still thinking the same as when I left, I want to retire here. I am here for whatever Boca need. But the truth is that I finished the season very happy in England. I am feeling good, I have no desire to be thinking that I want to leave, my family are happy." - Is Carlos Tevez already up to his old tricks?

FOREIGN VIEW: Some tragic breaking news this morning — Spanish coach Manuel Preciado has died from a heart attack at the age of 54. The much-loved former Sporting Gijon and Levante coach had only reached an agreement to take charge of Villarreal yesterday.

COMING UP: Plenty of expert opinion on the upcoming tournament as we bring you the thoughts of Glenn Hoddle, Martin Jol, Dietmar Hamann and Ray Wilkins.

Away from football it's the first day of the final Test between England and West Indies at Edgbaston. Live coverage will get underway at around 10:30.

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