After Leicester City's extraordinary accomplishment of winning the Barclays Premier League in 2015-16, England manager Roy Hodgson will hope Foxes' striker Jamie Vardy can help recreate some of that magic on the international stage come June 11 when the Three Lions kick off their Euro 2016 campaign against Russia in Marseille.
England will face the likes of Russia, Slovakia and Wales in Group B after putting together the best qualifying campaign in Europe -- winning all of their games and conceding only three times. But qualifying is understandably a different story for England, who never seem to put together the full product when they hit the final tournament.
Since 1980, no team has been eliminated in the Euro group stages more than England. However the Three Lions have a good opportunity to equal their best finish (reaching the semifinals) if they can settle their line-up and top Group B.
Vardy will be the lone representative from the champions of England after Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater was axed from Hodgson's side on May 31 in order to keep the likes of Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere in the fold. The decision came despite the fact that Wilshere has failed to put in a full 90 minutes during the time it took Leeds United to sack six managers.
Hodgson definitely seems to prefer Eric Dier in the holding midfielder role, but a case certainly could have made for Drinkwater and the depth he could've brought to the Three Lions after an impressive showing against Australia in a 2-1 victory on May 27.
Vardy is one of five strikers selected by Hodgson and is poised to start up front alongside Tottenham's Harry Kane in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. This effectively pairs the Premier League's two most deadly finishers from 2015-16 together with young Manchester United star Marcus Rashford and Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge available on the bench.
Captain Wayne Rooney will most likely drop back into a more natural attacking position behind Kane and Vardy to provide support with James Milner and Dele Alli manning the midfield behind him. Dier should play in front of Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill and serve a highly-defensive midfielder role with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker providing support out wide.
However, Hodgson's side presents many opportunities to bend the formation to a 4-2-3-1 and potential starting line-up with the likes of Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling in the fold. Joe Hart is most-assuredly England's starter in goal.
In typical English fashion, the Three Lions' final friendly before heading to France left more questions than answers thanks to a dull 1-0 win over 10-man Portugal on June 2. An 85th minute Smalling header provided the boost for England.
Hodgson's obligation to go with the best players hasn't translated to having the best possible line-up. As exemplified in the Portugal friendly, his starting XI will need a serious evaluation prior to kickoff against Russia.
Rooney's inclusion in the central of the attack pushed Kane and Vardy out wide, nullifying their primary influence as central strikers. Thursday's line-up seemed to be an attempt to play a formation that was capable of including all of England's best players rather than a line-up that compliment one another on the pitch. England's best play came about after Sterling, Wilshere and Lallana were subbed on and able to change up the attack.
In order to use the best strikers in your squad to their fullest, you need to employ them in a way that plays to their strengths. Vardy's abysmal eight touches against Portugal shows he isn't seeing enough of the ball to make an impact and was not effective out wide with Rooney's inclusion in the middle of the attack. Hodgson's inability to adapt his formation and line-up to suit its best players doesn't bode well for England, who enter Euro 2016 with multiple insecurities. Loyalty to players like Rooney and forcing an incapable formation seems to take priority when alternatives like Lallana and Sterling wait to make an impact on the bench.
Without changes in the coming week, it could be another painful and familiar tournament for England.