Comment: Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves starting spot at Euros

Belgium's Gillet Guillaume (right) and England's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battle for the ball
Belgium's Gillet Guillaume (right) and England's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battle for the ball
Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

Evans: Player talk has lifted Pompey form

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The roar which accompanied Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first scampering run after six minutes was instantaneous and sustained and reverberated around Wembley like a wave of optimism.

In a way that is what it was. Optimism that in an 18-year-old with a handful of Premier League starts, England have found a player with the skill and guile to provide penetration to an otherwise pedestrian midfield.

Hope that in the Arsenal winger they have discovered a character to provide the unpredictability they will need at Euro 2012 in a week’s time.

Oxlade-Chamberlain, born and raised in Portsmouth, was given his first England start in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Belgium at Wembley.

It capped a meteroic rise for the former St John’s School pupil, who is the son of ex-Pompey midfielder Mark Chamberlain.

Now there is a genuine chance Oxlade-Chamberlain could be our secret weapon in the Ukraine and Poland.

That is not meant to heap unrealistic expectation on the shoulders of a player with so much potential.

It is more a realisation that England, despite their victory, are a team who go to the European Championships with no real cohesion.

Under Roy Hodgson they will be difficult to beat. That much was obvious from the way they retreat at pace when they do not have the ball and play in solid lines.

But while Danny Welbeck’s opening goal was reward for quick thinking by Ashley Young and an exquisite chipped finish, in truth, England supplied few moments of creativity.

And that is why we come back to Oxlade-Chamberlain and whether at 18 he is worth the gamble of a starting slot at Euro 2012.

On balance, the answer has to be yes.

Along with Welbeck, he was England’s bright spark in a first half dominated, despite the scoreline, by Belgium’s superior technique.

True, the Arsenal man blasted one chance high and wide from 18 yards and then sent another swerving delivery narrowly past the post from 20 yards.

But he was lively, full of tricks and fluid in his movement although, admittedly, he did fade amid a Belgium onslaught in the second half, eventually being substituted after 66 minutes for Theo Walcott.

And there’s a thing. That’s the Walcott who went to the 2006 World Cup without having played a Premier League game and was left on the bench by Sven-Goran Eriksson who, in the harsh environment of competition, did not deem him mature enough to risk.

Oxlade-Chamberlain did enough in his cameo role against Norway last week and against Belgium at Wembley to suggest he is ready.

Of course, it is unlikely England are going to win Euro 2012.

They are a work in progress. They lack that cohesion and creativity. They are not going to open up Europe’s top sides at will, although Jermain Defoe was unlucky not to score with a second-half shot which rapped a Belgium post.

But on an evening when the England band’s drummer banged his instrument with increasing gusto and there was a celebratory Jubilee weekend feel in the air, Hodgson and his team had reason to be cheerful.

Played two, won two. Not a bad way to depart for Euro 2012.

With hope rather than expectation.