ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson refused to be drawn into a row with Greg Dyke yesterday after the Football Association chairman classed the national team as no-hopers for next summer’s World Cup.
Dyke’s assertion that nobody “realistically thinks we are going to win the World Cup in Brazil” threatened to overshadow the team’s preparations for two matches that will go a long way to deciding whether the team even qualifies for the tournament.
Hodgson conceded England were far from favourites and admitted they would need to improve on their lukewarm qualifying performances to lift the trophy for the first time in 48 years, but dragged the focus back onto tonight’s fixture against Moldova at Wembley.
“I very much doubt we’re at the top of any bookmakers’ list to win the World Cup in Brazil,” he said.
“So let us first qualify and then aim to get a bit better for Brazil. What bothers me is not whether we win the World Cup; it’s giving the performances we need to make sure we make the World Cup.”
Captain Steven Gerrard also attempted to avoid contradicting Dyke, whose comments came a day after he set England the target of winning the 2022 World Cup.
In his first major speech as FA chairman, the former BBC director general identified a shortage of English players in the starting line-ups of top-flight sides as the key to the national team’s malaise.
“I don’t want to get involved in a worldwide debate about English football. Getting to this World Cup is my priority,” said Gerrard.
“There hasn’t been a reaction. None of the players are talking about what Greg said. They’re all focused on getting the six points from these two games. We’re focused on a strong performance. It won’t be on proving any individuals wrong.”
Dyke’s wide-ranging speech on Tuesday won him praise for a willingness to tackle the factors behind England’s failure to compete with leading football nations of comparable size, such as Germany and Spain.
His demand that England reach the semi-finals of the 2020 European Championships and win the World Cup two years later in Qatar drew a less favourable reaction, not least because his is only a four-year term.
Dyke urged the Premier League, as well as players’ and managers’ unions, to help him set up a commission aimed at increasing the quantity and quality of English players in the top flight. But he could be set for an immediate snub as it is understood League chiefs will not automatically accept his invitation and are reluctant to abandon their own solution, the Elite Player Performance Programme, which only began last year.