Roy Hodgson said yesterday that the blight of injuries which have left the England team without Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Jack Wilshere among others did not mean that Euro 2012 should be written off.
The England manager said he would start with his first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart and a back-four of Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, John Terry and Ashley Cole against Belgium at Wembley today.
Scott Parker will get another opportunity to prove his fitness alongside captain Steven Gerrard in midfield, having trained this week despite an Achilles problem. The rest of the team was due to be finalised last night.
With all 90,000 tickets sold for today's game against one of the brightest young teams in Europe, Hodgson challenged his players to prove that they could mount a credible challenge in Poland and Ukraine.
"I want the players to go and show how enthusiastic they are about this tournament, how determined they are to work their socks off to get the best results possible," said Hodgson.
On the injuries that have claimed Barry, Lampard and reserve goalkeeper John Ruddy since the squad met up, Hodgson said England were "very unfortunate" but "not alone".
"The French are a classic example," he said. "They lost Bacary Sagna just before the tournament and might have lost Yann M'Vila. It's going to happen, quite frankly. We are at the end of a long season, particularly in England where we don't have the winter break."
Gerrard defended the selection of his Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson, whom he said had come on "stronger and stronger" at the end of the season.
"People are judging him on his price tag rather than his age and his potential," he said.
Belgium, meanwhile, have their own selection issues, with captain Vincent Kompany, of Manchester City, a doubt for the game. A decision will be made on his calf injury this morning. (© Independent News Service)