ROY HODGSON landed in Rio and then backed his strikers to fire England out of their group.
England’s battered and bruised squad touched down in Brazil on Sunday following a feisty encounter with Honduras.
Thanks to surging runs from Ross Barkley, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, England created plenty of chances but they ultimately failed to convert them and the match ended scoreless.
Sturridge was the most guilty party, wasting two excellent chances in the second half.
A strong Italian defence awaits England in Manaus on Saturday, but Hodgson is sure his team will have what it takes to break Cesare Prandelli’s men down.
“We didn’t score against Honduras but we scored five goals in the games against Peru and Ecuador, so I think it would be very harsh to start casting aspersions,” the England manager said.
“Daniel Sturridge is an absolute out-and-out goalscorer and we think Rickie Lambert is too. Of course we have got the Rooneys, Welbecks and Gerrards and Lampards, so I don’t think we’re short of firepower.”
Although Lambert scored a good goal against Ecuador, Sturridge is almost guaranteed to start against Italy in Manaus.
Any doubts Hodgson may have had about the Liverpool striker were put to bed when he scored a glorious goal against Peru at Wembley before England departed for Miami.
It is the rest of England’s attack which Hodgson has to decide the make up of in the coming days.
Barkley performed well in the two games at Sun Life Stadium, but it looks as though he will have to settle for a place on the bench after Hodgson criticised him for giving the ball away.
Danny Welbeck looks to have secured one of the wing places thanks to a good display against Honduras and Wayne Rooney may end up playing out wide after an encouraging display there against Ecuador.
That could leave a space for Raheem Sterling to play just behind Sturridge, as he has done on several occasions for Liverpool this year.
“There is the boy we haven’t seen yet, Raheem Sterling,” said Hodgson, who could not play the Liverpool man against Honduras due to suspension.
“There is a good chance he would have played in that position (behind Sturridge against Honduras) had he not been sent off against Ecuador.
“It is not purely Barkley or Rooney, we have got Danny Welbeck who can do it and we have got Sterling.
“Raheem Sterling has been excellent in training. “It would have been nice to have given him a game beforehand, but now he’ll have to compete for a place not having had these warm-up games.”
Hodgson would have preferred to leave Miami with two wins under his belt, but he was still happy with how things went in Florida.
Important lessons were learned, he insisted. The first one was how to deal with playing in the same climate as the one that awaits them in Manaus.
England also learned about the type of opposition are likely to face in Brazil.
Ecuador and Honduras did not hold back in the tackles and it was a big surprise that only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered an injury during the week in the Sunshine State.
Sterling was sent off in the Ecuador game following a touchline melee with Antonio Valencia, but England’s players restrained themselves on Saturday when Emilio Izaguirre booted the ball straight at Sturridge’s groin while he lay on the turf.
“The players kept their cool very well,” Hodgson said.
“I think we got (three) yellow cards but God knows how.
“Overall it has been three good weeks of preparation.”
The squad underwent a light training session by the pool in their Rio hotel on Sunday afternoon.
They will have their first training session at their Urca base today.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected to sit out the session as he continues his recovery from a medial knee ligament injury.
Ray Lewington, meanwhile, will begin England’s World Cup campaign on crutches after it emerged he had knee surgery just 24 hours before the Honduras game.
The England assistant coach had an arthroscopy on his knee after awaking in severe discomfort on Friday morning.
Lewington is expected to be on crutches for two to three days and the Football Association is confident he will soon be able to resume his regular coaching duties with the squad.