Saturday 21 October 2017

Roy Hodgson embraces growing expectation as England prepare to take on Italy in quarter finals

Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson

ROY Hodgson has taken a unique approach to managing expectation surrounding his England Euro 2012 hopefuls - he has chosen to embrace it.

Hodgson has not come out with the kind of grandiose "we can win it statements" delivered by his predecessors, and even Wayne Rooney when he spoke to the media on Sunday.



Instead, the 64-year-old has opted to ride the growing wave of euphoria, believing it reinforced the spirit that has built up within his squad.



It is a novel position. But like so much of what Hodgson has done over the past seven weeks since his appointment as Fabio Capello's replacement, it seems to be working.



"I don't mind the expectation getting greater," he told BBC Sport.



"I am really pleased about it. We have been very buoyed by the news from home and the people we meet here.



"Everyone seems to be becoming an England fan again.



"That is so important for us. If you are a football player or coach, you want people to appreciate you and get behind you, you want people to give you the feeling if I do have a bad game it is not going to be a catastrophe.



"There is more of that feeling and the players are responding. Long may that continue."



It is bizarre. By welcoming the expectation, Hodgson is ensuring it does not engulf his players.



The task is easier to achieve in Krakow of course.



One of the reasons Poland's second city was chosen as England's base was because no matches are being played there.



An evening stroll may be beyond Rooney, who would probably be mobbed if he took a trip to the North Pole.



However, should they so wish, the vast majority of England's players could go for a wander around Krakow's magnificent market square without attracting a second glance, especially now Poland are out of the competition.



Hodgson played no part in organising this aspect of the trip, which was put together by Club England managing director Adrian Bevington and rubber-stamped by Capello.



Contrary to initial suggestions, he agrees with it though.



"I would choose to do the same thing as far as our base camp is concerned," he said.



"The weather in Ukraine is a lot hotter than in Poland.



"In choosing Krakow, we had the advantage that we were alone there, in a city, and could do things on a daily basis."



That means a couple of training sessions prior to departure for Kiev, where they will face Italy in the quarter-finals on Sunday.



As Italy also set up camp in Krakow, it will be interesting to gauge the general mood in both squads.



For once, the controversy does not surround and England player, but Mario Balotelli, someone known well to Premier League audiences.



Hodgson will not need to be reminded that in between his extremes of behaviour, Balotelli is capable of moments of sublime ability.



His hooked effort against the Republic of Ireland for instance will be a contender for goal of the tournament.



And there are others too.



Andrea Pirlo, the stylish 33-year-old Juventus playmaker, Gianluigi Buffon, for so long regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world and Roma's Daniele De Rossi.



Antonio Cassano, the AC Milan forward who underwent minor heart surgery last year after suffering a stroke, hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for his derogatory comments about the potential for gay members of the Italian squad and also scored in the win over Ireland in Poznan on Monday.



Add in Italy's status as four-times World Cup winners, European Championship victors in 1968 and eight additional semi-final appearances besides and it is easy to see why Hodgson is reluctant to claim England should be jubilant about the task that lies ahead, even if they have avoided tournament favourites Spain.



"It has to be an advantage not to face Spain," he said.



"They are the clear favourites. They won the last World Cup and European Championships and are favourites to win this one.



"We can't deny we would rather not play them.



"But I have to be very careful what I say for fear of suggesting Italy are not a very good team and worthy opponents."

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