How Far Can England Go?

England’s win over Wales on Thursday has made sure that their destiny is in their own hands and they won’t have to rely on other results to qualify for the next round.

Following Slovakia’s win over Russia on Wednesday it has sent England to the top of their group.

Hodgson has been heavily criticised for a number of reasons, firstly the fact that the Premier League’s most prolific striker, Harry Kane was taking corners and also the arguably negative approach that has been adopted over his tenure.

Today though the former Liverpool boss has to be commended his decision to introduce Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy at half-time proved to be inspired as both strikers scored goals to overturn the 1-0 half-time deficit.

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Roy Hodgson, England manager.

England have not done it the easy way conceding a late goal against Russia in their first game in Marseille and then having Gareth Bale give Wales a one goal half-time lead.

The character shown today and the way all three substitutes (Vardy, Sturridge and Rashford) played are encouraging for England. England could well progress to the quarter-finals should this form continue.

England should seal top spot this Monday when they play Slovakia in Saint Etienne. Wayne Rooney and his players will believe that should they play as they did in the second half and if Roy Hodgson does get his selection right then England could well impress a few people.

My England XI to play Slovakia (4-3-3)

1 Joe Hart; 2 Kyle Walker 5 Gary Cahill 6 Chris Smalling 3 Danny Rose; 20 Delle Alli 10 Wayne Rooney 17 Eric Dier; 22 Marcus Rashford 15 Daniel Sturridge 11 Jamie Vardy

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Why the Olympics Can Save Athletics

Athletics has experienced a very turbulent time over the last few years with some of the sports biggest stars being embroiled in scandal and institutionalised doping has also become an issue.

Mo Farah is one of these such stars, the well renowned Nike Oregon Project run by Alberto Salazar came in for criticism regarding doping especially due to Farah’s good track record since he won two gold medals at the London Olympics.

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The Olympic Rings.

Russian athletics has been at the centre of the doping scandal, many athletes had been involved in what could be described as the biggest doping scandal of all time.

This summer in Rio de Janeiro, the Olympics has the chance to have a hugely positive impact on the sport.

The IAAF thus far has acted very poorly in dealing with the doping scandal, even since Lord Coe has taken over a number of poor decisions have been made including Coe himself staying as an ambassador for Nike despite the clothing brand continuing to sponsor disgraced two time cheat Justin Gatlin.

Usain Bolt is a very important piece of the puzzle if the Olympics is to save the sport, Bolt so far has been found to be clean of any performance enhancing drugs.

Should Bolt win his events, the 100 metres and 200 metres two events which bring in a high number of spectators and a large sum of money. Bolt has to defeat the likes of Powell, Gay and of course the arch villain Gatlin.

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Usain Bolt has never been found guilty of doping.

If Bolt was found to have taken any such drugs the sport could go to a very dark place. So far clean athletes have been a part of the athletics finals which has kept the sport afloat so far.

The stars of the games have to perform in order for the sport to save some face in Brazil and possibly take one step along what is becoming the ever longer road to redemption for athletics.

Little Time, Big Problem

With the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games due to happen later this year, athletics finds itself embroiled in it’s biggest scandal possibly ever. The drugs scandal which has found itself aimed at even some British stars such as Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.

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Mo Farah following one of his victories at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Russian doping scandal which revealed the extent of the drug problem among Russian athletes is possibly the biggest doping scandal of all time. The notion that the state could be involved in doping was a mind blowing revelation.

This just added to previous scandals including the Justin Gatlin saga which still angers me the way the drugs cheat is allowed to race. Then there were the other high profile sprinters including former Olympic champion Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell.

This toxic problem in the sport is not helped by the fact that the IAAF have not enforced bans or sanctions on the individual athletes or unions involved in doping either directly or indirectly.

The allegations thrown at Alberto Salazar regarding his Nike Oregon Project. The athletes that trained there have all seen their training scrutinised and their career possibly jeopardised.

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Alberto Salazar has been accused of doping many of his athletes.

This string of doping revelations that have been brought about over the past few years have thrown the world of sport into disrepute.

With the 2016 Olympics looming and the recent arrest of former IAAF chief Lamine Diack is hugely worryingly for not only athletics fans but sports fans all over the world.

Will Roy’s Boys Roar in France?

The Euro Championships are always a great occasion for all football fans over the continent.

England travel to France in June with a raft of new players likely to be in the mix since the previous Euro’s back in 2012 which prompted some soul searching following an indifferent campaign.

With the likes of Jamie Vardy banging in the goals this season for Leicester including of course surpassing the record of the great Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

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Vardy celebrates scoring a goal for Leicester City.

The emergence of Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has also looked promising as he is becoming a well rounded captain. His passing game and control make him invaluable to Klopp’s new Liverpool and if he can finally make himself an England regular we could start to see England reap the benefits of Henderson.

The young Jesse Lingard has been a really exciting player to come through the ranks up at Old Trafford and his stunning rise saw him earn a call-up to Hodgson’s most recent squad.

Add in to the mix a host of young stars in the under-21’s Loftus-Cheek, Redmond, Chambers, Ibe, Ward-Prowse and Targett all looking to break into the top squad having made themselves regulars at their respective clubs.

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Jordon Ibe celebrates scoring pre-season.

England have been drawn in a group that is certainly winnable with ties against Wales, Slovakia and Russia to look forward to in France.

Games against Slovakia and Wales shouldn’t be too much of a problem despite the undeniable talent of former Spurs key player, Gareth Bale. Russia’s talented squad could prove a slight problem for England though.

The road to Paris so far though has been as smooth as you like with England bagging a 100% win record in their qualifying group, admittedly the likes of San Marino, Lithuania and Estonia are nowhere near the likes of a nation obsessed with football such as England.

Greg Dyke has issued a warning to Roy Hodgson saying that England have to get out of their Euro group and I for one would agree, if England fail to emerge from what is a relatively simple group questions will have to be asked about the coaching staff and players.

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Roy Hodgson has been issued a warning by the FA.

My England XI (assuming all are fit):

(4-2-3-1)

Joe Hart (Capt., Man City); Kyle Walker (Spurs), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), John Stones (Everton), Luke Shaw (Man Utd); Eric Dier (Spurs), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool); Raheem Sterling (Man City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Jordon Ibe (Liverpool); Harry Kane (Spurs)