State of the Nation - Football: Euro 2016 semi-final spot minimum requirement for Roy Hodgson’s England

England manager Roy Hodgson.
England manager Roy Hodgson.
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NEXT summer will mark, to paraphrase Baddiel and Skinner, “50 years of hurt” for English football.

It will also be 20 years since Euro ’96, 30 since the ‘Hand of God’ and 10 since the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ headed to Germany with the country believing glory was imminent.

That the Three Lions ‘only’ made the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup was a major letdown at the time, though considering the dross that has been England at major tournaments since then maybe Sven Goran Eriksson deserves more credit.

Either way, there can be little doubt that years ending with the number six have been pretty eventful down the decades.

There is much, therefore, for Roy Hodgson and his side to live up to in France next summer. Whether they can do so, however, is another story.

Certainly, the draw for the group stage could have been tougher. Russia finished strongly in qualifying after dispensing with Fabio Capello but are far from at their best, while Slovakia will be making their bow at a European Championships.

So, too, will Wales and, even allowing for the hype that will be the ‘Battle of Britain’ on June 16, England have every chance of topping an average-looking group.

That would then potentially open up a less demanding route to the latter stages, with Group B’s winners due to face a third-placed team from either group A, C or D.

England, if they can claim pole position, would not face a group winner until the last eight of the expanded tournament.

Even second place in Group B would be favourable, as that would bring a meeting with whoever finishes second in a group featuring Portugal, Iceland, Hungary and Austria,

The big question, of course, is whether Hodgson’s side are good enough to take advantage of what amounts to a fairly gentle draw.

Undoubtedly, progress has been made since the debacle that was the last World Cup in Brazil.

The only 100 per cent record in qualifying may have come in a woeful group but it suggested a ruthlessness on the part of the England team.

Decent talent also emerged during qualification, the likes of Ross Barkley, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling all having developed.

Tottenham’s Dele Alli also looks capable of filling the wild card, late entry to a squad that was Paul Gascoigne ahead of the 1990 World Cup.

The flipside, however, is Wayne Rooney’s declining form in a Manchester United shirt and a defence that has looked less than rock solid even when Joe Hart has been racking up the clean sheets.

Improvements will have to be made if the likes of Spain, Germany and Italy are to be held at bay once the ridiculously bloated format of Euro 2016 is whittled down to the last eight or even four.

With that in mind, selecting the criteria by which Hodgson and his men should be judged next summer is difficult.

A quarter-final appearance looks the bare minimum if the Championships are not to be considered a massive failure, though to this correspondent even that should not necessarily be enough to earn Hodgson another two years.

The England squad possesses potential, but the 68-year-old has to prove he has the key to unlocking it.

And that, therefore, means matching the feats of 20 years previously, when football truly came home in a glorious summer that changed English football forever.