STEP ON THE ROAD TO RIO England boss excited by World Cup challenge
ENGLAND v ITALY Kick-off 8pm – Live on ITV1
ROY HODGSON insists England’s bid for 2014 World Cup glory begins in Berne tonight.
Hodgson’s patched-up squad will face Italy in a double-quick reunion with their conquerors at Euro 2012.
A line-up packed full of kids and skippered by veteran Frank Lampard will bear little resemblance to the team that takes the first steps towards Rio in the opening qualifier against Moldova.
But Hodgson insists he is looking for signs the Three Lions can hit the ground running when they begin their bid to reach Brazil.
“Both teams will be looking to approach the game in the same way and give younger players a chance,” said Hodgson.
“But I am hoping to see a few things that will excite me and stand us in good stead when we start the qualifiers.”
Hodgson opted to leave out many of his big names who played in the Euros, including Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
And Arsenal’s Theo Walcott became the fourth player to pull out of the squad when he picked up a thigh injury in training.
The Italy clash gives Chelsea midfielder Lampard the chance to get back in the international set-up after injury denied him a place in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
And while the friendly fixture has been widely criticised by club managers preparing for the start of the Premier League season, Lampard believes it is crucial Hodgson gets more time to work with his players.
“It’s a great challenge for the team and the manager,” said Lamps.
“He had only a couple of weeks to work with the players before the Euros and this is more time together.
“It will help us get a good start to the World Cup campaign.
“We can’t afford to make a slow start in the qualifiers.”
Lampard admitted he was gutted to miss the Euros, but his rapid reinstatement to the squad means he remains on course to reach a century of caps.
Lampard will collect his 91st cap against the Italians, but he insisted: “It’s a game by game thing for me. I wouldn’t want to be hanging around to get 100 caps for the wrong reason and I’m sure the manager wouldn’t do me any favours.
“If I can help, I am happy to be here. I’ll try to play at the top level for as long as I can.”
And he added: “I was frustrated not to go to the Euros, but I had to take it on the chin after the high of winning the Champions League.
“I watched the Euros on television. It was very nerve-wracking and very frustrating to see them go out on penalties.
“But that’s gone now and I think this is a very exciting squad.”
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