England won't fear France at Euro 2012, says Hodgson

10 June 2012 09:16

England manager Roy Hodgson insists his players won't fear France when they face Les Bleus in their heavyweight Euro 2012 duel on Monday.

France head into the Group D game in Donetsk on the back of a 21-game unbeaten streak, brimming with confidence and attacking brio after a 4-0 drubbing of Estonia last week.

The French outplayed England when the sides last met at Wembley in a November 2010 friendly, and Laurent Blanc's team will start as favourites for Monday's showdown in the Donbass Arena.

However Hodgson is adamant that despite England's chaotic and injury-hit build-up to the tournament, his players believed they were capable of beating the former World and European champions.

"The players think they can win, no question," Hodgson said. "There's no fear in that respect. There's healthy respect as they deserve to have.

"We know France's players -- many of them play in England -- we know the quality of those players. Our players have come across them week in, week out.

"And we must respect the fact that when you go 21 matches unbeaten you've got a pretty good team there. If you went 21 matches unbeaten in a league that's quite an achievement.

"But I don't get the feeling that our players are in any way cowed by the task ahead of them. Maybe they are more motivated in a way.

"It might be quite nice for them in a way to go into a game where people are saying 'You've got a tough game today, France are a better team than you'. It doesn't happen very often."

Hodgson also hit back over his handling of Rio Ferdinand, insisting the Manchester United defender had never been considered as a replacement for injured Gary Cahill.

Ferdinand reacted angrily last week after inexperienced Liverpool defender Martin Kelly was drafted into England's Euro 2012 squad following Cahill's fractured jaw against Belgium.

The experienced defender's agent slammed Hodgson's handling of his client, accusing the England manager of showing a lack of respect to the veteran of 81 internationals.

But an unrepentant Hodgson batted away questions over Ferdinand's omission in a briefing with reporters at England's Krakow training base.

"I'm presuming that what people have thought is that when Cahill got injured I looked at two players -- Rio Ferdinand and Martin Kelly -- and chose Martin Kelly," Hodgson said.

"But there was never any question of that. Rio Ferdinand never came into consideration. I had my squad of 23.

"I had the players that I knew were probably in Cahill's absence going to be the starters and I knew who were going to be the covering players, so when it came to bringing another player in the squad I wasn't going to bring a player of Rio Ferdinand's age, class, background, experience to be a cover player."

Many pundits and former players have speculated that Hodgson's exclusion of Ferdinand was a result of the ongoing racism case involving the player's brother and defender John Terry, who was named in the squad.

However Hodgson, who insists his squad selection was based on footballing reasons alone, is nonplussed by the furore surrounding Ferdinand's treatment.

"That's not my fault. You're not trying to blame me for that fuss are you? I just made the decision. I don't know what causes debates," he said.

"I'm not even going to go down that road. Debates get started in the mass media. I'm not a journalist. All I know is that I made a decision that was a very clear one, a very easy one to make.

"The difficult decision was whether or not to include Rio in the original 23. That took a lot of soul-searching. When Cahill got injured that soul-searching never came up for me again. If it's happened, so be it."

England have registered back-to-back clean sheets in Hodgson's opening games in charge and the manager believes his team will need another steely defensive display to keep France's attacking triumvirate of Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery at bay.

"The higher the quality team you play in terms of their attacking threat, the better you have to be defensively," he said.

"But you know that sometimes against those teams that if you can be good defensively they are also going to leave openings on the counter-attack."

Hodgson revealed his coaching staff and players had spent the week poring over videos of their opponents in a hunt for potential weaknesses.

"I think we've had three or four videos about France that we've been able to show the players," he said.

"We're not concerned that we don't know what we're going into; we're concerned that we know we're going to face a team with some good players who are capable of causing us damage."

Source: AFP