Football

Published: Saturday June 14, 2014 MYT 12:17:02 PM
Updated: Saturday June 14, 2014 MYT 12:18:01 PM

England-Italy game could be another classic, hints Hodgson

MANAUS Brazil (Reuters) - England's opening Group D game against Italy on Saturday could be another free-flowing classic of the kind that has already lit up this World Cup, manager Roy Hodgson suggested on Friday.

The coach said he was surprised by the 5-1 hammering the Netherlands dealt defending champions Spain earlier in the day.

"I think the start of the tournament will hopefully be the continuation as well. We've seen attacking football, we haven't seen one team defending for all it's worth ... we've seen both teams going at each other," he told a news conference.

Asked whether England would take the same attack-minded approach, he replied: "We always try to play that way. I don't think over the years there's been a (time) where England teams go out to keep a clean sheet and not attack ... and certainly on this stage we'd be even less inclined to do it."

England are sporting many younger players than the squad that struggled into the second round in the 2010 World Cup before being thumped 4-1 by Germany.

Daniel Sturridge looks set to play alone up front supported by a trio of Wayne Rooney and Adam Lallana and one of either Danny Welbeck or Raheem Sterling, who was sent off in a friendly against Ecuador in Miami earlier this month.

"I think it's important we keep all our men on the pitch," team captain Steven Gerrard told the news conference, in a sign Sterling will start on the bench.

Given the ferocious heat and humidity in Manaus, Hodgson may decide not to play veteran Frank Lampard in midfield with Gerrard. Instead, he could opt for the younger Jordan Henderson, Gerrard's team mate at Liverpool.

Ross Barkley, who was electric as a substitute in England's second Miami warm-up against Honduras, is expected to come off the bench as an impact player.

Gerrard said England's game plan was to "defend very well and make it really difficult for Italy to play through us and try and limit them to very few chances on goal and then try to be brave and bold and attack."

Italy depend heavily on 35-year-old midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who could well struggle in the oppressive conditions against younger and more energetic opponents.

"I think we're going to be fine, we're going to be able to cope," said Gerrard, predicting the pitch conditions in Manaus would be "quick and zippy".

Hodgson bristled when asked about his game plan over the last few weeks, replying that the team had been trying to play the same way for two years.

Yet he conceded that planning could only go so far.

"If you'd have said to me after I'd watched the first half of Spain against Holland that the game would end 5-1, I might have been tempted to laugh in your face. But it did end 5-1 and that's what football is," he said.

(Additional reporting by Ken Ferris; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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