Signs that things may be changing for England
By Mike Collett
DONETSK (Reuters) - While the English Premier League has become the richest and most widely viewed around the world, the national side have punched below their weight for years but there have been hints at Euro 2012 that this may be changing.
Under new manager Roy Hodgson, England have started to play like a very united club side, with no prima donnas, an evident team spirit and a steely determination to overcome the odds.
They showed that in their Group D victories over Sweden last week, when they recovered to win 3-2, and against co-hosts Ukraine on Monday when a 1-0 scoreline in the Donbass Arena sealed top spot and a quarter-final with Italy in Kiev on Sunday.
The conundrum at the heart of the English game is that the Premier League, which last week sealed a new three-year 3.0 billion pounds ($4.71 billion) TV contract to run from 2013, has attracted the best overseas players which, in turn, is said to limit opportunities for English players at the highest level.
English clubs continue to do well in European competition - Chelsea are the European champions - but in their three appearances at these finals, including the opening 1-1 draw with France, the wheel appears to have turned full circle.
England's players have battled and supported each other like they do at their clubs - just as Hodgson asked them to when he arrived in Ukraine - and under the urbane and diplomatic veteran coach they actually look as if they are enjoying being here.
As Hodgson said after beating Ukraine: "It has been a really good tournament for us and we have enjoyed every minute of it. It's not a question of expectations any more, we just want to keep going and enjoy it for as long as we can."
DIFFERENT MOOD Continued...