Krakow, Poland – A satisfied Roy Hodgson has challenged England to hone their attacking threat against Sweden but believes his side will possess an “ace in the hole” when Wayne Rooney returns from suspension.
A weary England returned to their Krakow training base early Tuesday reflecting on a job well done after securing a hard-earned point in their 1-1 draw against Group D favourites France.
As expected, England's gameplan was based on defensive solidity, with France's dangerous attacking players mostly kept at bay by Hodgson's well-drilled side for long periods.
While Hodgson will not be the least concerned by barbs directed at his team Ä with French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly disparaging England's display as “feeble” Ä the coach is hoping to cause more problems for Sweden in attack when the two sides meet on Friday.
“It's in the final third, isn't it, really?” Hodgson reflected when asked where his side could improve.
“Once or twice, especially in the first half (against France), there were some very promising counter-attacks and they broke down because we tried a one-touch pass to finish it off rather than taking that extra touch.
“The French were just the opposite. They don't play a lot of one-touch football around the penalty box. They play a lot of two, three touches, holding onto the ball and asking another question.
“Sometimes I think we want to try and finish it off too quickly. I think that's because of the intensity of the Premier league.”
Hodgson is confident that England's strikeforce of Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck will improve as they gain greater experience.
“You must remember that we had Ashley Young, who hasn't always played that position, and Danny Welbeck, who is 21 and did really well,” Hodgson said.
“You've got to make allowances for the fact that they had (Karim) Benzema, who is much older and playing for Real Madrid, and Samir Nasri.
“Maybe looking at them you can expect a bit more from them when they get in the final third than I can expect from our players at the moment.”
Hodgson must now consider how to reconfigure England's attack for their final group game, when Rooney will become available.
It is likely Rooney will assume the second striker role with Young possibly moving wide and Welbeck leading the line.
“Our real ace in the hole, I think, should be Wayne Rooney, because he is very fit and he's raring to go,” Hodgson said.
“He really can't wait to get on the field and if he can play like Wayne Rooney, then we're going to be a bit more difficult to beat.
“You can only benefit from having someone of his quality in your team.”
Hodgson meanwhile admits England's biggest challenge between now and Friday's game with Sweden in Kiev will be to ensure his players get adequate rest.
The biggest questions surround the recovery time of his two thirty-something central midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker.
Gerrard and Parker ran themselves to a standstill against the French, covering every blade of grass at the Donbass Arena to shield the back four.
Whether those two players can reproduce that level of performance every four days against Sweden and Ukraine will be critical to England's chances.
“That's the big question,” Hodgson acknowledged.
“I don't think I will be the only coach asking that about his players in this tournament but obviously those two are both over 30 years of age, they both had to work really, really hard.
“But I'm sure I'm not going to be the only coach wondering 'can they do it every four days?' But this is what tournament football is about.
“And what we've go to make certain of, is that if they can't other people are ready to go in there and do exactly the same job.” – Sapa-AFP