KRAKOW: England manager Roy Hodgson believes France’s outstanding form ahead of Euro 2012 will count for little when the two countries clash in Donetsk.
France have recovered in spectacular style after the unrest surrounding the squad at the 2010 World Cup and are unbeaten in their last 21 internationals. Hodgson respects Laurent Blanc’s team but does not feel their record will give them a decisive advantage heading into the Group D encounter.
He said: “It is a stern challenge. We are facing a team in excellent form and 21 matches unbeaten at any level is a fine achievement. But when you come to European Championships or World Cups, having good or bad form isn’t the factor that’s decisive. It’s how your team plays on the night, how people adjust to the circumstances – they’ll be slightly different here in Donetsk – and it’s about what you can do as a team.We have full respect for the French, but the players are confident in their own ability.”
Hodgson is also conscious England have not won a trophy since the 1966 World Cup. He said: “You can’t accuse us of not being a very serious footballing nation but we’re all very much aware that we’ve not won anything since 1966. You don’t need to remind me of that.
“We have a chance, as one of the 16 teams here, to show how good a team we are. I can assure you we’ll be doing our best to prove it on the field of play.”
England will be flying to and from their Krakow base for their three group games in the Ukraine but Hodgson believes his side are not at a disadvantage commuting between countries. He said: “It’s not something I’ve given great attention to. The trip has been very well planned. I can’t believe the quality of our preparation and administration. There’s been no hardship to take a short plane journey here. We’ve moved from one good hotel to another good hotel.
“We’ve got time to prepare for the game. I like being in Krakow and I’m convinced our performances will not suffer as a result.”
Hodgson is prepared to take responsibility for what happens at Euro 2012 despite having only a month to prepare for the tournament.
He said: “Is this my England team? It’s got to be. No one expects, after three weeks, someone to have totally stamped his mark on the team.But I’ve worked with Steven Gerrard before, Glen Johnson before (at Liverpool). It’s the team I pick, and the team I take responsibility for. It’s been an exciting month, and three weeks with the team. The players have worked very hard and we’re all very excited that the tournament begins in earnest now.
“For me, personally, it’s a fantastic occasion for me to sit on the bench and watching an England team I’m responsible for.”
Hodgson is also refusing to use the high temperatures in Donetsk as an excuse should England slip up on Monday night.
He said: “We’ll deal with the heat as best we can. It does get hot in England from time to time. The heat is a factor for all the teams playing in the Ukraine. It plays a slightly bigger role in the earlier game, but the bottom line is that it’s the same for both teams. It’s important we don’t put too much emphasis on conditions. We have to look at our play and how well we can play.”
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