Spurs star backs ‘different’ England to spring a surprise at Euro 2012
EXCLUSIVE: Ledley King played against France in England’s first group match at Euro 2004 - and the Tottenham captain will be an interested observer this time around.
Ledley King believes that a young, fearless and ‘different’ England outfit could confound expectations as the Three Lions prepare to kick off their Euro 2012 campaign.
Roy Hodgson’s side start their tournament against France in Donetsk on Monday but, as the big kick-off approaches, the public remain unconvinced that their current crop of national stars have what it takes to make their mark.
A number of England’s players are about to take part in their first senior international tournament, including youngsters Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones.
But King, who has 21 England caps and started the 2010 World Cup campaign in South Africa, believes that such inexperience may translate into plucky, youthful exuberance.
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Indeed, the 31-year-old says the unusually low expectations could also help Hodgson and his players in Poland and Ukraine.
“I think we’ve got the players we’ve always had, who are among the top players in the world,” King told London24. “We’ve also added a lot of youth recently, and a lot of speed.
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“I think there are a lot of players who will probably go into the tournament with no fear, just wanting to show how good they are – and that can be a good thing.
“Obviously the manager is there now, and it’s different – it’s a different England going into this tournament.
“There’s probably not so much expectation at the moment. People aren’t sure what’s going to happen, and that could be a good thing too.”
King was on the field when England last faced France in competitive action, as they met in the first group match at Euro 2004 in Portugal.
Frank Lampard gave Sven Goran Eriksson’s side a first-half lead, and they had a golden opportunity to double their advantage after the break when Wayne Rooney was brought down in the box.
David Beckham stepped up to take the spot-kick but was denied by Fabien Barthez – and Zinedine Zidane broke England hearts at the death, equalising with an injury-time free-kick and then converting a penalty seconds later to steal a 2-1 win.
“It was a strange game,” said King. “I didn’t know until a day or two before that I was going to be playing. I’d only had one start – I think I had three caps before that but only one start – so it was a massive game for me.
“I really enjoyed it, although we lost 2-1. We played well and had the chance to go 2-0 up – we missed a penalty to go two goals ahead – and then a player called Zidane came along and scored two goals in the 90th minute.
“It kind of showed me what it’s like at that top level, because we actually played well. It was an enjoyable game apart from the result, but it’s something I’ll always remember.”
King’s defensive colleague Younes Kaboul was in line to face England after initially being selected for Laurent Blanc’s squad – only to withdraw with a knee injury.
Like King, Kaboul will be watching the showdown at home, and he believes that England have ‘no chance’ against his countrymen.
“It’s a new generation for us,” said Kaboul. “We have a good manager, good staff, so we believe we can do something this summer.
“There are big nations like Holland, England, Italy and Germany so it’s going to be hard, but France are still there. England have no chance against us!”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs