ROY HODGSON has told his players they must not be scared of getting injured when they take on Peru in their final pre-World Cup friendly on home soil.
The England manager insisted last night that preparations for the tournament have so far been perfect.
Just after being parachuted into the job, Hodgson had to make significant changes to his plans for Euro 2012 when Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry and John Ruddy were all injured just before the tournament.
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Hodgson has had far better luck this time. After a week and a half of training, there have been no injuries.
Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere are all nearing full fitness despite their lack of recent first-team football.
Hodgson knows one stray tackle or misplaced stride could ruin a player’s World Cup dreams, but he says his squad must not even think about ducking out of challenges against Peru.
“In the team talk the one thing you can be sure of is that we won’t be talking about being ‘careful with injuries’,” the England manager said.
“Once you start doing that, you set yourself up to be injured.
We’re going to be playing to the best of our ability and in the way we want to be playing going forward and then you keep your fingers crossed nothing untoward happens.
“There will be a big crowd to see us off at Wembley, so I want to see a good performance.”
Four years ago England’s players became annoyed at being holed up in a remote resort in Austria, where they were worked incredibly hard.
Then manager Fabio Capello was in the midst of contract negotiations with the Football Association and the ill-fated Capello Index brought embarrassment to the Italian and his employers.
This time the picture seems to be completely the opposite.
Hodgson and his squad were all smiles yesterday when they greeted Prime Minister David Cameron at St George’s Park. And last week thunderstorms and blustery winds failed to dampen the spirits of the squad during their warm-weather training camp in Portugal, where the players impressed Hodgson.
“Preparations could not have gone better,” Hodgson said.
“The players are showing a tremendous appetite and most importantly of all a tremendous awareness of what we have got coming up and what they need to do to realise their dreams as far as this World Cup is concerned.
“If I could bottle what I’m seeing it and release it on June 14 I’d be very happy.”
Hodgson’s only injury doubt for tonight is Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, who has a sore throat.
The England manager could name up to five Liverpool players in his starting line-up.
Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson have all had stellar seasons for the Reds, who missed out on the title by two points.
Hodgson sees no reason why the quintet can not transfer their form on to the international stage.
“The players can very easily replicate the qualities of their performances (for Liverpool),” Hodgson said.
“In terms of styles of play, the way we’ve tried to set up over a long period of time doesn’t differ greatly from the way Liverpool are trying to approach their games: an attacking style, a passing style, using the qualities of the individual to go out and showcase their skills.”
Peru, ranked 42nd in the world, have brought an experimental squad to England.
Their captain Claudio Pizarro has not made the trip to London.
Hodgson will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes to his starting XI though. The England boss is more likely to experiment in the friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras next week in Miami.
He said: “These three training matches will be very useful for me in terms of picking the final XI for the first game.
“I’ll give players opportunities to stake their claims, then I’ll make my decision.”
Hodgson plans to take standby players Jon Flanagan and John Stones to the United States for experience.