Roy Hodgson has asked for support from the England faithful before his side take on Italy in Group D’s second match of the night and both he and England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insisted that there were no concerns for the Manaus pitch.
Since the groups were announced, people have played down their chances at the tournament as they were picked in a tough group alongside Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. But Hodgson insists that his young squad can do well with support from their fans.
“What we want from back home is support, encouragement, for people to believe. If it doesn’t go that well for us, it’s not for any other reasons than it didn’t happen for us on the night”, said the England boss
It is interesting to note that with an average age of 26, his 23-man group is the second-youngest to represent England in the tournament – a stark contrast to 2010, where former manager Fabio Capello selected the nation’s oldest ever squad.
Hodgson spoke about his talented young squad which includes the likes of Luke Shaw, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, among others.
“No doubt if I was watching from afar with no responsibility, I’d be clamouring myself for the youngsters. These are the players who don’t have the baggage to carry with them, they are exciting talents with fantastic potential, but you have to be careful that we don’t throw them into the lion’s den too early and we have to be aware that the World Cup is a little bit special”, said the 66 year old ex-Switzerland boss
He added, “There is nothing that would please us more than to give a performance that has everyone thinking ‘this is terrific’, ‘what a good England team’. That’s our only hope, our only goal.”
Hodgson admitted that he and his side were nervous ahead of their opener but he described it as ‘good tension’:
“There is tension as without it, it would not be worthwhile. Games without it you don’t remember but it’s good tension. Of course there is always the anxiety that however much confidence you may have in the elements you control, it’s that area you don’t control – the misfortune, the bad luck or refereeing decisions – you’re always anxious you can be unlucky.”
Hodgson also insisted he had no concerns over the state of the surface at the Arena Amazônia, where England trained for the first time on Friday evening. “I’ve just been on it and we think it’s fine. It’s very flat. I don’t see any reason for any concern. We’ll be happy to play on that pitch. It’ll play well and will suit both teams. The grass is short, the pitch is flat, and we should be able to play good football on it.”
There were concerns over Danny Welbeck’s health and whether he could start after suffering from a thigh strain recently. Hodgson said that there were no worries and the Manchester United striker could start, ” “It was a niggle which doesn’t stop him from playing, and he could start”
Captain Steven Gerrard spoke about the exciting and well mixed-up England squad as well as the importance of doing well in their opening match
“When the whistle goes against Italy, you are on your own. You are with your team and your squad and you have to have belief in what we are going into the tournament with. I think we are in a good place. The squad is very talented, with a good blend of players who have vast experience at this level and have had great careers, and young exciting talents. But everyone knows you get judged after every individual game in these kind of tournaments.
“This is the perfect opener for us because, if we do perform as we know we can and we get that big result that we need, then it can go an awful long way to carry us through. The confidence and belief we would get if we do get the right result could be massive.”
He also said that he, like his manager, was not concerned about the pitch, “It’s totally fine. The grass is the perfect length. The sun’s off the pitch at 4.30 and we don’t kick off at 6pm. It’ll be zippy. Perfect.”
Top Image Courtesy: thefa.titan24.com