Roy Hodgson : We are going to show the nation what we can do
Roy Hodgson takes his England players into their opening match of Euro 2012 against France insisting they have shown enough during his brief time in charge to convince him the low expectations surrounding the team are misplaced.
Hodgson described himself as “really quite surprised” by how confident he feels about England’s chances of a successful start to the tournament, despite having so little time to prepare against a France side that has not lost a match since September 2010.
“It is a stern challenge. We are facing a team in excellent form who are 21 matches unbeaten, which at any level is a fine achievement,” said Hodgson. “No one expects, after only three weeks [of being full-time], someone to have totally stamped his mark on the team. So I’m surprised really that I’m as confident as I can possibly be that the players are going to show you, and show the nation, what they can do.
“I just hope they play like they’re capable of playing. We have a team full of players who are major stars in their own club sides, in one of the top leagues in Europe. I see them playing to the best of their ability at home and my only hope is that they can reproduce that form in this tournament.”
Hodgson has had little more than a month to get England ready, starting as a job-share with West Bromwich Albion, and he admitted it had been a gruelling introduction. “The days have been so intensive, there have been quite a few where there has been absolutely no down time at all. But I am happy with what we have achieved. I don’t think the players could have worked harder for me or tried harder in the training sessions to become a team.
“You could say we haven’t had as much time as we would have liked but on the other hand these lads are used to playing with each other on many occasions so I think we are as well prepared as we can be, and I am not actually convinced that if I had had more time we’d have been better prepared.”
England’s preparations have not been helped by a heatwave in Donetsk that means the match could kick off in punishing temperatures. The French squad have been acclimatising to the heat since Wednesday and Hodgson, though demonstrably more confident than any other time since his appointment, added a note of caution.
“We have to make certain that if we are successful we don’t let it go to our heads and that if we are unsuccessful we don’t start digging graves for ourselves.”
The manager added: “To the players, my message is going to be: ‘I think you’re ready, I think you’re good enough, now have the confidence and the belief in yourself to go out there and show it – and don’t get suicidal if things don’t work out for you’.”
Hodgson went on to identify John Terry’s presence as one of the reasons why he felt increasingly confident, insisting the Chelsea player was worth the trouble that invariably seems to follow his England career. “Once again, he is coming off the back of a very good season with Chelsea, especially towards the end when he played a major part in getting to a major final [the Champions League], even though he couldn’t play in the game himself.
“We all know John’s qualities, what a centre-half he is. We all know what a warrior he is also. And we also know he is a player capable of taking other players with him. I’m just hoping John Terry will show in this tournament all the qualities I have seen him show over many years with England. I’m convinced that he is very determined to show these qualities. I think he feels himself this is a great opportunity to show the very best of what he can do.”
As well as the heat and a renascent French side barely recognisable from the team that were knocked out of the last World Cup, England will have a more unorthodox problem to deal with in the Donbass Arena – an invasion of midges that means the players will be given insect repellent before kick-off.
“We’ll deal with it as best we can,” Hodgson said. “It does get hot in England from time to time and the heat is a factor for everyone playing in Ukraine, not just us. It plays a slightly bigger role in the earlier game, but the bottom line is that it’s the same for both teams.”
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