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More than just a friendly for England

England expects. That should be the strap-line from now on for Euro 2016 and beyond. While the ‘old guard’ have retired, after being officially dubbed ‘the Golden Generation’, and failing to win anything, lessons should have been learned over the last decade.

In front of keeper Paul Robinson, there was a back four that included Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Gary Neville, behind a midfield quartet of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole that supporting a strike force of Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. A world class team if ever you saw one right?

Guess what? We knew it. Complacency set in, we believed our own press and countries like Spain and Germany developed and evolved their own plans for world domination under the radar. Now, with Roy Hodgson at the helm, his proclivity for youth development in line with Germany’s model represents a renaissance that is infinitely scalable and, more importantly, proven at the highest level.

Daniel Sturridge has every asset of a number nine striker seeking to be the best in the world, and odds of 4/1 for him to net first against Norway indicate just how far he has come over two years. In Brendan Rodgers, he is working with one of the most talented managers in British football. Raheem Sterling’s potential is unquestionable; the 19-year-old attacker is England’s answer to Cristiano Ronaldo, and he will only become better. Wayne Rooney as leader, and new captain must forget past personal events, and set an example for new blood coming through.

In fact, the whole England entity on an international football front have an opportunity to work on a blank canvass. Throw off the shackles that have kept them chained down for a decade. Painting by numbers is a thing of the past, controlled by a number of variables and restraints; an opportunity awaits to create a masterpiece of Claude Monet proportions. That means, a freedom to play exciting, attractive attacking football, built on a foundation of a new breed of defender that can play the ball out from the back, and apply intelligence to read the game, being one step ahead of their opposition.

John Stones has an opportunity to nail down a place in England’s starting line-up, after being confirmed that he will begin the match against Norway. At 16/1 to score anytime, Everton’s rising star can also prove he’s a threat from set pieces, and an answer to John Terry.

Jordan Henderson is going from strength to strength, again under the tutelage of Rodgers. More than just a box-to-box presence; he has adapted his game and the runs he makes are intelligent, and well-executed. An ever-improving ability to read the pattern of play will stand England in good stead, while Jack Wilshere’s tenacious streak and defence-unlocking ability is the perfect foil.

Danny Welbeck’s decision to move to Arsenal could be the smartest he has made in a professional capacity. As Rodgers has done with Sturridge, Sterling and Henderson, Arsene Wenger will get the best out of Welbeck who will only flourish with England colleagues Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Calum Chambers and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The match against Norway is more than just a friendly. It is an opportunity to lay down a marker and say ‘We are England’, and live up to the ‘Lions’ part of their nickname.