Injuries plague England

England are the only European country to have won the World Cup but never be crowned European champions.

England boss Roy Hodgson. Picture: AFP

LONDON - England return to the European Championship after an eight-year absence with new manager Roy Hodgson hoping to improve on what is a woeful record in the finals for one of Europe's traditional stronger football nations.

England are the only European country to have won the World Cup but never be crowned European champions and following a spate of injuries, there are very few indicators suggesting that England's disappointing European record will improve this month.

Whether Hodgson, 64, named on 1 May as England's new permanent manager following the departure of Fabio Capello in February, can bring success remains one of the many unanswered questions facing the Three Lions this month.

In eight finals appearances since 1968 they have only reached the semi-finals twice: in 1968, when only four teams took part in Italy and in 1996 when they hosted the tournament.

Typically for England though, the build-up has been blighted by injuries, with Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Gary Cahill all sidelined while Rio Ferdinand was ignored as Cahill's replacement by Hodgson who preferred Liverpool youngster Martin Kelly instead, provoking the first real row of his reign.

The responsibility for leading England to success passed to Hodgson on May 1 only weeks before their Group D campaign kicked off against France in Donetsk, Ukraine, on 11 June.

Further games against Sweden in Kiev on June 15 and co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on 19 June are also considerable obstacles for England to overcome.

One note for optimism perhaps is that England looked organised at the back in Hodgson's first two friendlies in charge which both ended in 1-0 wins against Norway and Belgium. They may not have been pretty displays, but England looked hard to break down at least.