MANAGER Roy Hodgson last night hit back at Montenegro boss Branko Brnovic’s claims that England are scared, arrogant and favour long balls, dismissing the remarks as pre-match “mind games”.
Defeat in Podgorica tonight would leave England five points behind the Group H leaders with four World Cup qualifiers remaining, increasing the likelihood of needing to win a play-off to reach Brazil 2014.
Brnovic turned up the heat yesterday by arguing that the visitors’ concerns about the football pitch were evidence of fear, and that a poor surface would hinder the hosts more as “the English have always favoured long passes”.
“I think it’s definitely mind games but I don’t really have an opinion on that. I was surprised that he thinks a defeat won’t hurt Montenegro,” said Hodgson.
“If he’s suggesting that we should accept the burden of being favourites for the game then we’ll accept it. We’re confident and we think we’ve got good players so we’ll accept that responsibility.
“It’s what happens during the 95 minutes that’s decisive anyway so what people say beforehand doesn’t make a great deal of difference. It’s what the players do.”
Wayne Rooney’s return to the scene of his 2011 red card adds further spice to the fixture, but Hodgson praised the striker’s response and played down the need to remind players about conduct.
“Wayne’s disciplinary record since that has been outstanding,” he added. “We always talk about discipline, it comes up quite often. I trust the players and I won’t be making a particular point of it because they are aware of it and don’t need it repeating to them.”
Hodgson could recall full-backs Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson after both sat out Friday’s 8-0 qualifying win over San Marino.