ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson has slammed suggestions that his players lack the technical qualities of their Continental counterparts, as they prepare for tonight’s Euro 2012 showdown with Sweden in Kiev.
Hodgson’s comments came after France coach Laurent Blanc had slighted England, saying “a really good side” would have punished them more in the opening stages of Monday’s 1-1 draw between the two teams. Blanc’s pointed remarks echoed familiar complaints about English players being better at battling than ball control – a theory Hodgson was quick to shoot down.
“I would definitely question any suggestions that we are lacking in any way or our players are not technically good enough,” he said. “The Premier League is regarded widely as a very good league and a very technical league and we have some of the best players in that league.”
Former Sweden captain Jonas Thern joined Blanc in sniping at England, although he chose the supposed superiority complex of Hodgson’s men and their followers as the object of a vitriolic outburst.
Thern, who led the Swedes to third place at the 1994 World Cup, predicted that his countrymen would defy their underdog status against Hodgson’s men, whom he labelled “predictable”.
“Apparently the one shot towards the France goal over 90 minutes was all it took to ignite the chronic English illusion of world football supremacy,” he said.
“I said before the Euro finals started that Sweden would beat England and I stand by that statement despite the horrific display against the Ukraine [they lost 2-1].
“England’s performance had none of the quality they like to boast it had. France had 15 shots on goal compared to England’s one. Their style of play does not intimidate as it is predictable and stereotyped.
“England has historically struggled against Sweden as they cannot capitalise on our strength, which is the physical game. Sweden does not fear this style of football.”
Victory tomorrow evening in the second round of Group D fixtures would leave England well placed to qualify for the quarter-finals in their final match against co-hosts Ukraine in Donetsk on Monday.
A win would also be England’s first against Sweden in a major tournament, a record that stretches back seven fixtures, although that has not dampened captain Steven Gerrard’s confidence in taking three points.
“I would think the same level of performance [as] against France will be good enough to beat Sweden,” said the Liverpool midfielder.
“I would say so with all due respect to Sweden who are a good, strong team, but they are not France. I think we can be a little bit more bold and a little bit more ambitious and get at the Swedes a little bit more.
“We are confident if we reach the same level of performance it’ll be enough for a victory.”
All 23 England players trained yesterday, with Hodgson expected to stick largely with those who earned a draw in their opening match in Donetsk.