STEP ON THE ROAD TO RIO Eng­land boss ex­cited by World Cup chal­lenge

ENG­LAND v ITALY Kick-off 8pm – Live on ITV1

Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

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.

In­jury

“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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