England, at least back home, are perennially considered major contenders heading into any tournament. However, given Spain’s status as the reigning world and European champions, and the emergence of the Netherlands and Germany, few give Fabio Capello’s team more than an outside chance of winning UEFA EURO 2012.
Olof Mellberg, who spent seven years playing for Aston Villa in the Premier League, believes this could work in the Three Lions’ favour. The 34-year-old defender was part of the Sweden side that lost 1-0 at Wembley last night, a result an under-strength England preceded by beating Spain 1-0 at the same stadium on Saturday.
The two outcomes meant the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ winners, who have never reached the UEFA European Championship final, finished 2011 unbeaten, with six victories and three draws from their nine outings. Furthermore, they have kept clean sheets in four of their last five matches.
Mellberg said: "I think England can be contenders next summer. They look like they really know what they are doing, especially defensively. It seems as if they work well as a team and apply really good pressure, and getting key players back in their squad will help them even more.
"But you don't really seem to have that hype now that normally surrounds England. I don't follow the media all the time over here, but it doesn't seem to be that big hype normally associated with England.
"Maybe that is a good thing for them. Maybe the fact England have failed so many times at tournaments is keeping things in perspective. That plays a role as well, not only here amongst themselves but with everyone else.
"Everyone always has them as one of the big favourites at tournaments to do well. It is understandable for obvious reasons looking at the squad they have and the teams the players play in.
“But maybe next summer they will be underdogs, or at least not as big a favourite as Spain and Holland, and that might help them in a way. A lot of other things play a part as well. It will be a big season for all players to play well and stay fit."