HODGSON: WE CAN CHALLENGE FRANCE
England coach Roy Hodgson insists he will get a team on the pitch that will give France a game in the Euro 2012 opener in Donetsk next Monday.
Hodgson has been left in a very tricky spot after losing three important members of his squad through injury, before being lambasted by Rio Ferdinand's representative over the Manchester United man's omission.
He can only hope the dust settles quickly to allow him to concentrate on preparing his team to meet the in-form French, who took their unbeaten run to 21 by beating Estonia at the weekend.
Hodgson has seen enough over the past couple of weeks to believe the Three Lions can present Laurent Blanc's men with a stern challenge.
"Whether we can beat France I don't know because when you have gone 21 games unbeaten you obviously have something," he said.
"They have a lot of games behind them with a team they believe in.
"We can't suggest we are in that position, not least because of our key figures, Wayne Rooney can't play in the first two games, and others have left us through injury.
"I don't think we will go into the game as favourites but I am happier that we are moving towards a team that can not only give them a game but, if we have a bit of luck on our side, perhaps win."
Hodgson's plans have needed revising.
Frank Lampard might well have started next week, especially with Scott Parker still not back to his early season form. Gary Cahill definitely would have as John Terry's defensive partner.
Both men are injured though, so at the back, the introduction of Joleon Lescott will require Terry to shift away from his favoured left-sided defensive station.
Hodgson's remaining selection dilemmas surround the central striking position, where he will choose between Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll, and the wider positions.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did his chances no harm with an eye-catching first start in Saturday's win over Belgium, although Stewart Downing and James Milner will also come into contention.
The latter two players fit into the general belief that Hodgson wants his side to make it difficult for their opponents as a first priority.
However, he denies that is the case.
"If you are suggesting I have gone in with some major principle about being hard to beat, that is not the case at all," said Hodgson.
"We talk to the players about both aspects of the game.
"Of course, we do have good defenders and have plenty of experience in that area. That is what is shining through at the moment."
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