The countdown to Euro 2012 has begun in earnest now that Roy Hodgson has been given the task of leading England into battle this summer.
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England's preparation has been typically baffling and the media circus that follows the team is in full swing, but Bettingpro.com writer Nick Wilby believes there are ten good reasons to believe that Hodgson's lions will be roaring at this year's tournament.
1 - Roy Hodgson
Harry Redknapp might have been the nation's first choice when the England manager's job became available, but Roy Hodgson was arguably the safest choice and in appointing him manager they have installed one of football's shrewdest thinkers. Hodgson is vastly experienced having worked for no less than 16 teams in eight countries and he is revered at some of Europe's biggest clubs. He might not be the motivator that Redknapp would have been, but he is tactically astute and he'll be leaving no stone unturned this June.
2 - A fresh Wayne Rooney
Despite his dejected display in South Africa, Wayne Rooney is still England's most important player and there are no grounds for supposing England can launch a serious challenge at Euro 2012 without their most precious talent. Having the superstar available for one group game could be the difference between progressing and flying home early and if we do go through, we know we've got a striker playing at the top of his game. His club form has been mesmerising at times and he doesn't look to be carrying the injuries that plagued him two years ago.
3 - Joe Hart
Finally England has a world-class goalkeeper in its squad and you get the feeling Joe Hart will be very busy if we are going to get to the final in Kiev. Hart has been in fantastic form this season and he has excelled in between the sticks at one of the biggest clubs in Europe. He looks to have all the attributes to go on and become of England's greatest keepers of all time and his day-to-day practice with the likes of Sergio Agüero, David Silva and Mario Balotelli can only make him stronger.
4 - Spain can be beaten!
Chelsea's incredible victory over Barcelona and Bayern Munich's success over Real Madrid will have the leading contenders at Euro 2012 purring with excitement as Spain look to win their third major tournament on the bounce. They are undoubtedly the most formidable team on the way to Ukraine and Poland, but Chelsea showed that Spain can be conquered and if England do meet them then it is far from being all doom and gloom.
5 - England doesn't expect
It's hard to remember England heading to a major tournament with so little expectation and whereas the media have unscrewed the English wheels in the past, this year it seems it is very much a case of building for the future. Germany proved two years ago that the right blend of youth and experience can lead to great things and if England do use this tournament as a stepping stone to the 2014 World Cup, who is to say we won't surprise ourselves?
6 - The younger lions set to make their mark
It always seems to be the case that there is one exciting player trying to dribble their way into the England squad at these tournaments, but this year we seem to have a whole host of ultra-talented youngsters that could make an impact this summer. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has looked every bit the real deal at Arsenal and Danny Wellbeck continues to flourish in a Manchester United shirt. The future is certainly bright, but the present is equally as exciting.
7 - Keeping John Terry and Rio Ferdinand apart
Hodgson has resisted the temptation to pick John Terry and Rio Ferdinand in this month's England squad and the manager's decision will be welcomed with great relief in the dressing room. The relationship between Terry and Ferdinand looks incurable and the tension in the England camp could buckle under the strain of their feud. On his day Terry is a superb centre-back and nobody can fault his effort.
8 - Important players in form
For once there looks to be a number of England's leading names in fine form and it isn't just Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart that are buzzing ahead of the Euros. Frank Lampard has looked back to his best at the centre of Chelsea's siege for silverware, John Terry remains world class on his day, Ashley Cole still looks like one of the best left backs in the game and there are a whole host of players upping their game as the season reaches its climax. Even Andy Carroll is beginning to look unplayable!
9 - A case for the defence
Roy Hodgson is one of the most organised managers in English football and his impressive CV has been built on methodical tactics and successful back fours. These major tournaments are more often than not very tight affairs and there won't be too many goals between winning and losing. Luckily, England will have a fantastic goalkeeper, a well organised back four and one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League in the shape of Scott Parker if we do need to park the bus.
10 - The travelling England fans
England's travelling fans are without doubt the best in the world and despite the vast expense and long distances involved, we can be sure that thousands of supporters will be making the trip to Ukraine and Poland this summer. England's enthusiasm is more than a match for any of their rivals and they won't be fighting against the sound of the vuvuzela this time around. The England players will feel close to home when the fans flock to Donetsk for their clash with France.
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