ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson is adamant his team is vastly better equipped to beat Italy in Saturday’s World Cup opener than they were when dumped out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-final.
Just weeks after succeeding Fabio Capello in the England hot-seat, Hodgson saw his team put to the sword in Kiev on penalties, following a goalless draw in which they were ruthlessly outplayed – Italy enjoying two-thirds of the possession and 31 shots on goal.
Seemingly evergreen midfielder Andrea Pirlo proved England’s tormentor in chief that night, but Hodgson insists his team are capable of keeping the 35-year-old quiet and winning in Manaus.
“What are we going to do this time against Pirlo? First, we’ll play a lot better,” said the 66-year-old.
“We’ll play with more energy because we’ll have more energy because it will be the first game in the tournament. We’ll be even more compact than we were in that game [at Euro 2012].
“One of our plans this time is to make certain we do a lot more attacking and that Italy find themselves wondering what they’re going to do about people like Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney. We’re going to make certain Italy have a lot more to concern themselves with.”
Captain Steven Gerrard was withdrawn from training prematurely yesterday, with Hodgson desperate not to suffer any further injury setbacks ahead of Saturday’s opener.
The Liverpool midfielder failed to complete the hour-long session with his team-mates at their training camp situated at the foot of Rio’s iconic Sugar Loaf mountain, after complaining of a tight groin.
Midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered knee ligament damage in last week’s friendly against Ecuador, did emerge after the training session to complete sprinting work alone with England’s fitness coach, though was wearing a brace on his injured right knee.
Midfielder Ross Barkley had lightened the mood among the camp earlier in the day. With the squad about to embark from their hotel to their training base, their coach was forced to make an emergency stop with Barkley left behind.
The Everton man looked sheepish as he eventually boarded 15 minutes late, much to the delight of his team-mates, but anger of the locals due a consequent traffic jam.