After the disappointment of a group stage exit at the World Cup in Brazil, Roy Hodgson and England made stylish progress on their journey to France.
England became just the sixth team in history to end a European qualifying campaign with a 100 percent winning record as they slammed their group opponents, eventually coming home with nine points to spare on runners-up Switzerland.
Throughout their qualifying campaign, it was captain Wayne Rooney who led the way for England, with the Manchester United striker contributing seven goals in eight games.
Early on, Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck was also playing a starring role as he netted six times in five games before injury curtailed his contribution.
Hodgson’s side had very little trouble in accounting for the likes of Lithuania, Estonia and San Marino, while they swept aside the challenge presented by Switzerland both home and away with a minimum of fuss.
The trouble for the England boss appeared to be in finding his strongest team amid the task of slaying mediocre opposition.
Rooney will continue to lead the England line this summer, of that there seems little doubt. Meanwhile Welbeck will hope his return to fitness comes in time to force his way back into the squad but he faces stiff competition from the likes of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for a starting berth.
Both of the last-named duo have created big impressions at Spurs and Leicester respectively but it seems likely it will be Kane who gets the nod in France.
In midfield, Hodgson also has a tough job in trying to pick his best combination. Tottenham’s Dele Alli is the latecomer to the party seeking to push his way to the head of the queue. At 19, Alli lacks experience but his club form suggests he has the talent required and the England boss has hinted he could be a big factor at Euro 2016.
Everton’s Ross Barkley is maturing into a much more rounded midfielder compared with the youngster who went to Brazil two summers ago but a midfield unit that includes both Barkley and Alli would be a daring selection from Hodgson.
Satisfying The Hunger
Goalkeeper Joe Hart recently spoke of the massive hunger that exists within the England squad to succeed this summer. The Three Lions’ best performance in this tournament came when they hosted Euro ’96 and were denied in agonising fashion in the last four by Germany on penalties.
As always, the burden of expectation will weigh down on England and, as such, their opening game against Russia in Marseille on June 11 will be vital in setting the tone before what promises to be a real cup-tie joust with neighbours Wales in Lens five days later.
Their Group B campaign will conclude against Slovakia in Saint-Etienne on June 20.
Striking options aside, this England squad is laced with attacking potential when you add the likes of Raheem Sterling and Theo Walcott into the mix.
At the back, they will be well-served by the experience of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, while Chris Smalling and John Stones will seek to make their mark on tournament football. Full-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Leighton Baines also offer plenty going forward.
Hart holds the gloves but he could yet be challenged by Southampton’s giant Fraser Forster before he gets to France. Attack may be the best form of defence for England at Euro 2016. If Hodgson gets it right, they could match their Euro ’96 watermark, but get it wrong and there are genuine dangers lurking in Group B.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Defenders: Ryan Betrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Everton), Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester)