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England set for intimidating Ukraine 'away game'

Ukraine fans show their support in the stands before their game against France. Photo: EMPICS Sport

On three occasions during England’s opener against France the noise from the crowd hit you in the chest.

It wasn’t as a result of either goal or a remarkable piece of individual skill; it was the moment when tens of thousands of presumably bored Russians in the crowd decided to chant for their homeland.

It was from the heart, it was surreal and it was deafening.

Substitute those Russians for Ukrainians and that’s what will face England tomorrow night as the hosts fight for their tournament lives.

It will be loud and intimidating. The England brass band’s rendition of ‘The Great Escape’ will be drowned by a wave of ear-splitting eastern European nationalism.

Those who’ve played in Turkey may well have heard something like it before but I’m guessing a few England players won’t. It still remains a mystery to me why playing at home is such an advantage, worth a goal even, but it undoubtedly is and Ukraine will very definitely feel at home.

Veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko celebrates after scoring against Sweden. Credit: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

Of course the quickest way to quieten any crowd is for the opposition to score. England are averaging two goals a game so far, which without Wayne Rooney is pretty good going.

Having done his time, he's back now and if you ignore the fact he hasn’t scored in an England shirt in a tournament since he was a teenager, then England’s firepower has just got a little more potent.

So who makes way?

Well, it’s tough on him but it has to be Andy Carroll. He did very well against Sweden and Ashley Young has been all but anonymous in England’s first two games - but I think there’s a Hodgson-esque logic to playing the Manchester United trio of Young, Welbeck and Rooney together.

For the same reason the Chelsea cabal of Cole, Terry and Cahill would have made up three of his first choice four at the back had Cahill not got injured.

England boarded the team bus today in groups broadly reflecting their club teams:

And fate has helped Hodgson with the other decision that would have been exercising Hodgson. He may well have been minded to give Theo Walcott a start after his match winning contribution against Sweden. But in training yesterday Walcott aggravated the hamstring that’s been troubling him and for that reason I don’t suspect Hodgson will risk him. If all goes to plan he’ll need him in the quarter finals.

Whatever he decides though it’s bound to be right, isn’t it? I mean, he hasn’t put a foot wrong yet.

If Hodgson keeps making the right calls he’ll experience the longest every honeymoon period for an England manager.

You never know - it might even stretch beyond a couple of months!

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