Cristiano Ronaldo's trip to Ibiza scuppers Roy Hodgson Euro 2016 plans
Roy Hodgson has admitted that Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to take a sunshine break in Ibiza has scuppered plans to use England’s final Euro 2016 preparation game against Portugal as a dry run for the Group B clash against Gareth Bale and Wales in two weeks’ time.
Portugal captain Ronaldo will miss Thursday’s friendly at Wembley after being given permission to take a pre-tournament holiday by coach Fernando Santos following Real Madrid’s Champions League final victory against Atletico Madrid in Milan last Saturday.
Despite the Football Association selecting Portugal for the Wembley send-off fixture partly due to Ronaldo’s star status - the former Manchester United winger has not played at the stadium since the 2007 FA Cup Final – the 31-year-old has instead spent his week holidaying on a yacht in Ibiza.
Ronaldo’s absence will therefore deny Hodgson the opportunity to watch his players take on an opponent with one outstanding individual ahead of the encounter with Wales in Lens on June 16.
“One of the things we thought about with Portugal is the fact that Ronaldo is a very special player, a very special talent and an unbelievably influential figure for all the teams he has played for, including Portugal,” Hodgson said.
“We were thinking Gareth Bale plays in a similar position, so when we picked Portugal, we were not only thinking about their technical qualities and the fact they are a very good football team, but also the fact they have a special individual.
“I believe that he might not be coming now, but we are happy with the two opponents we have had so far.
“They have put us to the test and I have used quite a few players and I expect another tough test against Portugal.
“If we can get through that test and come away satisfied, then the three preparation games have served their purpose.”
With only Southampton defender Ryan Bertrand unavailable against Portugal due to an unspecified injury, Hodgson could field his planned starting XI for the Euro 2016 opener against Russia at Wembley.
But he insists that it is too early for him to settle on a team for that game in Marseille on June 11.
“I don’t want to commit myself to a team against Russia in 10 days’ time,” Hodgson said. “But it will be a strong team against Portugal.
“I have been close to the line-up for Russia for a long time because I have worked with these players for a long time.
“But I know the players and we are capable of playing against Russia with two XIs. That might be a slight exaggeration, but not far off.
“Headaches still exist in terms of spiking the final XI that will start the first game, but I hope we will go beyond three games and to do that, I will need more than eleven players.
“At the moment, things have gone to plan. On Thursday, I believe we'll have a very strong team on the field.
“But I'm not prepared to say whether it will be the starting XI against Russia. Some pretty important players are knocking on the door who will believe they are worthy of a place.”
Hodgson will travel to France with his contract as England manager due to expire at the end of the tournament.
Barring a disastrous performance by his team, Hodgson is expected to be handed the opportunity by the FA to continue in the job until the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but England coach Gary Neville has insisted that the 68-year-old has already done enough to earn an extended stay as manager.
“This summer is a big moment in terms of how the four years will be viewed in terms of the four-year contract we were all given,” Neville said in in the newly published book, Fifty Years of Hurt. “People will judge it based upon tournaments. I think Roy can be proud of an excellent piece of work.
"It needs a good finish in the summer. My view would be that he would go on beyond the summer because at this moment in time he’s doing the right things and making the right decisions, not just for himself, but for the team long-term.
“I think of 2010 in South Africa and old players called back out of retirement and panic calls on the last day to players to come and play.
“Roy went the other way. He went with Barkley, Sterling, Welbeck, Jones and Smalling. [Jon] Flanagan and Stones were brought in pre-tournament [the Miami warm-up for the 2014 World Cup].
“Post-tournament, Alli and Dier were brought in among others. He’s made a series of really good decisions for the English team but also for future tournaments for the next two to four years and hopefully he, we, can see that through.”
Independent News Service