April 12th 2016.
Roy Hodgson has an unenviable task awaiting him. The manager, who has been in charge of the England national football team, is set to unveil his squad for the upcoming 2016 European Championship on Thursday, May 12th. That date is weeks from the UEFA deadline of May 31st, and considering some of the injury woes that England's top players are currently facing, it's a bit surprising that Hodgson plans on making his announcement so early. In fact, Hodgson is prepared to unveil his 23-man Euro squad before the 2015/16 Premier League campaign has even come to a close. England's top-flight will close out its season the following Sunday.

High Hopes for England

Still, even if Hodgson is making a show of confidence by finalizing his squad early, the 68-year-old head coach has plenty of reason to have jitters about his tough decisions. England won all 10 of their Euro qualifying games, only conceding three goals along the way. The Three Lions also enjoyed a hugely promising friendly victory on March 26th, coming from behind to beat reigning World Cup champions, Germany, 3-2. (Granted, they lost three days later to the Netherlands, but the Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016 anyway.)

The stellar Euro qualification run, coupled with the intriguing friendly victory over one of Euro 2016's de facto frontrunners, means that hopes are higher for England this year than they have been in quite some time. The Three Lions have never won a European Championship before, but judging by current statistics, this year could be the year. It all depends on who Hodgson decides to put in his 23-man squad. Like we said: not the most enviable task.

The Squad: Who's In? Who's Out? Who's Close? 

With the weeks dwindling until Hodgson officially throws down the gauntlet and announces his Euro 2016 squad, what his 23-man lineup might look like is coming into clearer and clearer focus. There are no guarantees, and injury could always throw a wrench into Hodgson's plans. But with those two points made, here are the players we think are going to win slots in Hodgson's lineup.


By all accounts, goalkeeper is the easiest position to guess. Manchester City's Joe Hart is almost certain to earn a spot on the plane. He won the Premier League's Golden Glove for the 2014/15 season and is likely to clinch it again in 2016. Hart has had some injury issues this season, but should have no problem being healthy in time for Euro's June 10th start date.

As for his number two, Stoke City's Jack Butland and Southampton's Fraser Forster split goalkeeper duties in England's recent friendlies with Germany and the Netherlands. Butland, though, is certain to miss the tournament with a fractured ankle, which should ensure Forster a spot in the lineup. As for Hodgson's third-choice keeper, Burnley's Tom Heaton is the likely choice (though West Bromwich Albion's Ben Foster was the pick for the 2014 World Cup).


Even despite the near-perfect qualifying run, England's defense is probably the team's weakest facet. As a result, this position is also easier to guess than midfielder or forward-simply because Hodgson doesn't have a huge pool of talent from which to choose. As the England manager has admitted, his squad has been missing the presence of John Terry lately.

So who's making the lineup? Gary Cahill is probably the safest bet. He's been a starter in most of England's matches lately, and he's the team's vice-captain. With the possibility that Wayne Rooney won't be healthy again in time for Euro 2016, Cahill is going to need to take a leadership role. Hodgson won't be leaving him at home. As Terry's Chelsea teammate, Cahill is also the closest England can get to bringing the defensive legend back for one more international tournament.

Other defenders likely to make the 23-man lineup include Manchester United's Chris Smalling, Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne, Tottenham players Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, and Everton's John Stones. The two Phils-Everton's Phil Jagielka and Manchester United's Phil Jones-are both outside possibilities.


England is considerably stronger in the midfield than they are in terms of defense, which means that this position will be a battle for who gets a spot in France and who stays home. No wonder Hodgson mixed up his midfield section for England's double-header against Germany and the Netherlands. He's testing different players to see which choices and combinations work best.

Two gigantic presences in England's midfield-Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard-have retired from international play since the World Cup. Also, in the World Cup lineup were a few players who seem highly likely to make the 23-man squad again, including Raheem Sterling, James Milner, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson, and Adam Lallana.

Hodgson brought nine midfielders to the 2014 World Cup, which means that even assuming all six of those players are in, there will probably still be a few other open spots. The remaining two midfielders from the 2014 World Cup lineup-Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere-are possibilities, but might be long-shot odds due to their recent injury struggles. Right now, Hodgson seems more likely to favor the Tottenham Hotspur talents Dele Alli and Eric Dier.


Of all the parts of the team, seeing what Roy Hodgson decides to do upfront will be arguably the most interesting portion of his May 12th squad unveiling. Specifically, what Hodgson will choose to do with Wayne Rooney is a point of focus here.

Even sidelined with a knee injury, Wayne Rooney is unlikely to miss the 23-man lineup for the European Championship. Not only is Rooney the team's captain and heart, but he was also their best player in Euro 2016 qualifying. Rooney contributed seven of England's 31 goals and was a huge part of the reason for their near-perfect record. Bottom line, even if he stays on the bench for most of the tournament, Rooney is going to France.

If Rooney doesn't show ideal signs of recovery by May, there's a chance that Hodgson will bring an extra forward or two. His World Cup squad only included four attackers-Rooney, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge, and Danny Welbeck. This year, he has more talent to choose from-to the point where neither Sturridge nor Welbeck is a guarantee. Lambert, meanwhile, has retired from international play.

Even if Rooney recovers, he might not start at Euro. With both Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy enjoying stellar seasons (for Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City, respectively), Hodgson has a dependable base of offensive player to put on the field.

As for the rest of offensive section, Hodgson has a few choices. Welbeck was out for nine months with a serious knee injury, but Hodgson likes him, and the Arsenal star seems to be adjusting well as he gets back to the game. Sturridge, meanwhile, has had his own injury woes this season. Still, Rooney has a further way to go to fitness than either Welbeck or Sturridge-a fact that should help both men earn spots in the final 23.

Meanwhile, you can't count out Arsenal's Theo Walcott, who has more international caps than Sturridge, Kane, and Vardy combined. And if you want to bet on a dark horse, then Manchester United's youth sensation Marcus Rashford makes for a handsome long shot.

The Verdict

With some variation of the players listed above, Hodgson should be able to put together a strong 23-man lineup for Euro 2016. With Rooney injured and a few other health and fitness concerns plaguing the offense, and with a defense that leaves something to be desired, 2016 might not be England's Euro-winning year after all.

Then again, there is a lot of talent on this squad, and the highlights at the moment look to be players who weren't called up for England's dismal World Cup performance in 2014. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, for instance, haven't played in a major international tournament but will head to France with maximum momentum after career-making seasons. Even someone who isn't a 100% sure bet to make the lineup, like Eric Dier, should be getting England fans excited about their team's title prospects. Dier provided the highlight of England's recent friendly against Germany, finding the net at the 90+1 minute mark to give his side a win.

Which players do you think should make England's Euro 2016 lineup? And do the Three Lions still have a shot at the title? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your thoughts and predictions! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google + to share your perspective.