England too clean for their own good, says Gary Lim
Hodgson's men must remember that bad guys win tournaments
ENGLAND v RUSSIA
(Tomorrow, 3am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)
It's probably not a penalty shoot-out that Roy Hodgson is dreading most at Euro 2016.
Nor is it England's jinx of having not won their opening match of a European Championship in eight previous attempts.
Under their meticulous coach, the Three Lions would have arrived in France well prepared.
But nothing can prepare the team for the gamesmanship that is about to be unleashed on them with a fury.
This was exactly what England defender Eric Dier meant when he recently said that his compatriots need to be more "streetwise" to improve their chances of success.
England, who take on Russia tomorrow morning (Singapore time), must wise up or face the same old familiar heartbreak.
The game's inventors are novices in the dark arts.
At times, it almost looks as if their determination to do right by everyone outweighs everything else, victory included.
This thinking was backed up by Hodgson, who reminded everyone that he does not intend to introduce a "cynical" side to England's game.
After England's 1-0 victory over Portugal in a friendly last week, he said: "All I can say is that it's hard for me, being English, to start trying to teach people a manner of playing which I've never subscribed to and they don't subscribe to."
England, though, are certainly not impervious to temptations, and they have clocked their fair share of dives and attempts to fool the officials.
But they surely don't take it quite as close to the edge as their wilier European counterparts.
By comparison, they are sitting ducks surrounded by waterfowl hunters.
They are poor learners, and there are precedents.
At the 1998 World Cup, David Beckham was goaded into retaliating against Argentina's Diego Simeone, an act which earned him a sending-off and ended with England losing the game on penalties.
Former Argentina captain Roberto Perfumo described his compatriot's skulduggery like it was an art form that must be appreciated up close to do it justice.
He said: "Simeone did an act and got Beckham sent off.
"This is not the kind of thing that could have been done by one of your naive, honest English players.
"Our way of playing is inspired by the Italian model.
"English players are more naive. Our game is more calculating.
"We study a rival more closely, we look for ways to destroy him."
Captain Wayne Rooney should be fully aware of the dangers that lurk.
He will look back at the 2006 World Cup and regret his reaction - a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho, and then a shove at Cristiano Ronaldo after Ronaldo led a campaign for his red card - following persistent provocation by Portugal.
It's a recurring theme.
Not only have they shown an inability to cope with such underhand tactics in the past, they have been reluctant to dish them out as well.
Two years ago, after England bowed out of the World Cup in Brazil at the first obstacle, Rooney lamented that they were too "honest", and lacked the "nastiness" to win a major trophy.
He must be wishing that this squad, the youngest of 24 teams at Euro 2016, develop that mean streak.
He will hope to see it when they take on the Russians at the Stade Velodrome tomorrow, then again against Wales and Slovakia, their other group opponents.
The necessary evil could be what they have missing all this time.
"Four years ago, before Euro 2012, which I eventually did not play in, I called myself a lion cub, but now I am a lion."
- Russia striker Artem Dzyuba
Giant Dzyuba has three lions in his sights
Towering Russian striker Artem Dzyuba is hoping to cut England down to size when the two teams start their Euro 2016 campaign tonight.
Russia's squad are ageing and suffering from injuries, but the 1.96m Zenit St Petersburg forward (pictured) dominates the field and his recent goalscoring for club and country underlines his status as Russia's primary threat.
"I think it's a good thing that we're playing against a strong side. From the first minutes we will feel what it's like to play in the European Championship, and what's in front of us," Dzyuba said ahead of the Group B game in Marseille tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Exiled for the best part of three years following his international debut in November 2011, Dzyuba missed out on Russia's failed campaigns at Euro 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil, which both ended after the group stage.
However, a move to Zenit last July - following a lengthy series of loan spells while at Spartak Moscow - thrust the 27-year-old back into the spotlight.
Dzyuba struck 27 times in 42 games for club and country last season, spearheading Zenit's run to the last 16 of the Champions League and firing Russia to a fourth straight appearance at the European Championship.
"Four years ago, before Euro 2012, which I eventually did not play in, I called myself a lion cub, but now I am a lion," said Dzyuba, who netted eight goals during qualifying.
"For me they were two massive blows, and of course it really hurt," he told Four Four Two magazine, admitting it was tough to watch as Russia struggled in Poland-Ukraine and at the 2014 World Cup.
"(But) maybe it was even a good thing in a funny sort of way, as it made me angry. It made me work on my game even more to show everyone, myself included, that I belong at this level."
At 27, he is a late developer in a Russian side not lacking in experience - the squad's average age of 28.57 is the third oldest in Euro 2016 along with Italy.
Dogged by suggestions of a difficult personality earlier in his career, Dzyuba has been branded the team's joker by midfielder Oleg Ivanov and said the atmosphere in the Russia camp was "great".
His strike rate of nine goals in 18 international appearances makes for impressive reading, and Dzyuba will have England goalkeeper Joe Hart in his crosshairs.
"I really like Joe Hart, who is probably my favourite goalkeeper at the moment.
"He comes across as being quite charismatic, as well as being a powerful presence on the pitch. It would be a great honour for me if I manage to score against him."
Captain Roman Shirokov spoke of a quarter-final target for Russia, and a repeat of their last meeting with England - a 2-1 home victory in a Euro 2008 qualifier - would set the 2018 World Cup hosts up nicely for a run into the next stage with games against Slovakia and Wales to come. - AFP.
Roy's media teaser
England manager Roy Hodgson was in good spirits on the eve of their Euro 2016 opener against Russia, as he teased photographers during the open training session.
The 68-year-old (pictured) was pictured holding up a small piece of paper for the assembled media, seemingly mocking assistant Ray Lewington, who was photographed on Tuesday carrying a clipboard with a number of player names written on headed Football Association notepaper.
All the squad trained at their base in Chantilly ahead of the trip south to Marseille where they will open their Group B campaign tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Hodgson spoke to captain Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere during the session as he made final preparations for the match, in which Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling could start at the expense of James Milner and Jamie Vardy. - PA Sport.