Hodgson deserves praise - even if Three Lions look more like ugly ducklings

England's manager Roy Hodgson and Wayne Rooney celebrate after qualifying for the last eight
England's manager Roy Hodgson and Wayne Rooney celebrate after qualifying for the last eight
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Depending on your point of view, England are either the ugly ducklings of Euro 2012 – or they are working to a master plan.

After so many disappointing nights at major tournaments, a place in the last eight is indeed something to celebrate – even if Roy Hodgson’s team are winning few marks for artistic impression.

In the words of ex-Chelsea star Michael Ballack, who is working with us on ESPN: ‘England are parking three buses.’

But considering the chaos which Hodgson inherited, he deserves credit.

Asked to cobble a strategy together in a matter of weeks with an injury-hit squad, he has brought organisation, solidity and shape to this team.

Whether the purists like it or not, England have a plan.

They definitely had no semblance of one at the World Cup under the supposedly top-class coach Fabio Capello.

You can argue with some justification that England have been boring and a little lucky, as with the Ukraine ‘goal that wasn’t’.

And it would be rather good if Hodgson can get the team to play a little more expansively some time soon.

But the manager’s common sense and decency is easing his path with the England press pack. Before the game in Donetsk, he started his media conference by paying tribute to Danny Fullbrook, the Daily Star football writer who had died earlier that day at the tragically young age of 40.

Captain Steven Gerrard also paid tribute and the appreciative reporters gave a round of applause.

So all is rosy in a noticably relaxed England camp.

Whatever happens now, Hodgson can come home with his head held high because no-one expected this side to go beyond the quarter-finals anyway.

Ironic that England now meet Italy, a nation who have built all their modern era success on the current England DNA of deep defence, caution and cageyness.

But Cesare Prandelli is trying to built a slightly more progressive side and England will need to watch the crafty Antonio Cassano and the evergreen orchestrator Andrea Pirlo.

The Italians looked pretty good in forcing a 1-1 draw with champions Spain in group play.

Hate to say it, but the quarter-final with England has 0-0 and a penalty shootout written all over it.

I will be returning to Kiev for that game but before that it is yet another flight to Gdansk to see Germany play Greece in a game already labelled the Battle of the Bailout.

One Greek TV commentator shouted: ‘Bring on the Germans, Merkel’ at the end of his team’s win over Russia.

Greece loves the Euros more than the Euro.