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England forced to rip up Euro 2016 plans after failing to spot rule restriction

Roy Hodgson will have to reconsider his preparations for Euro 2016 because of an oversight behind the scenes at the Football Association which has led to an admission from the England manager that he and his employers did not properly know the competition rules.

The FA was planning friendlies against Czech Republic and Portugal during a series of matches at Wembley, Old Trafford and St James’s Park at the end of the season, with Hungary and Austria also in their thoughts for potential warm-up games.

However, the FA did not know about the Uefa regulation stipulating that teams are allowed to play only one other qualified nation in the month before the tournament. All the teams England had identified as possible opponents will be involved in France and the FA had begun the process without being aware of Article 21.05 in the Regulations of the Uefa Football Championship 2014-16, put in place by Uefa’s executive committee on 12 December 2013.

The mistake came to light in the last couple of weeks and, though it does not reflect well on the FA, Hodgson’s main concern is that the standard of opposition will not be as strong because they will have to choose teams that have not qualified for the tournament.

“At the moment we’re restricted,” the England manager said. “The restriction – we only found out after the draw itself – is that Uefa are insisting that in your warm-up matches you don’t play more than one team that are qualified alongside you.

“That will make it quite difficult because the teams that are actually looking for games are the teams that qualified. If we can only play one we’ll have to make a choice. The Czech Republic spring to mind while Hungary and Austria would be other examples. We like the idea of playing Portugal because of their quality and the enormous success they’ve had over the last year but if we’re restricted to one it’s going to make life difficult deciding which of those we’d most like.

“More importantly, it’s going to be more difficult to find two other opponents of the right quality because our initial thinking was that we would want to play three very qualified opponents. We’re not looking just for a game. We’d want a game that tested the players so there wasn’t going to be a big gap between the preparation games and the tournament itself.”

England have a friendly lined up against Germany in Berlin on 26 March, followed by Holland visiting Wembley three days later, and Hodgson has agreed with his players that they should not go on holiday at the end of the season.


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“The approach will be different to what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We’ve run that through the players because we were anxious to get their buy-in too. To break away from that process is quite a big cultural change and I’m impressed that when we approached the players they were 100% behind it and said: ‘No, we totally agree with you, we need to do that.’ It will make it hard for them because it will mean some will go from the beginning of July [in 2015] right through to the beginning of July again, and they won’t have had that three to four-week break that everyone associates with the off-season.”

Hodgson, in an interview with Sky Sports, said he still had a “slight hope” that Luke Shaw may be part of the squad after his broken leg and made it clear he expected Wayne Rooney to be a key player for England, even though the Manchester United striker has admitted in a separate interview he is struggling for form.

“I know that I have not been playing well and I’m working hard to try to improve and do my best for the team,” Rooney said. “It’s not nice when you are getting criticised after every game.”


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