Hodgson happy with England progress
Roy Hodgson admits his England team is "a work in progress", but as he flew out of Oslo last night the new manager declared himself satisfied with the start of his reign. On a day when UEFA EURO 2012 heavyweights Germany and Holland both lost, England's 1-0 win in Norway represented a decent effort.
The result ended a five-match winless streak against the Scandinavians and cemented a first triumph since 1966, but of far more importance was the chance to bring together a team badly lacking preparation after only three days working with their new boss. Yet it would be silly to gloss over the faults, and last night's display probably would not have been sufficient against the likes of Spain or France, England's first Group D opponents in Donetsk on 11 June.
An inability to retain possession for any length of time continues to dog the national team, while Gareth Barry's groin injury could trigger an unwanted squad reshuffle before Hodgson has to submit his 23 nominated players to UEFA on Tuesday. The Manchester City midfielder is set to have a scan on the injury tomorrow.
Still, Hodgson is satisfied to have a platform to build from. "I am aware that it is very much work in progress but after three days with this team I have to be satisfied with a more-than-reasonable performance," said Hodgson. "We showed a lot of discipline and worked very hard. We weren't as good going forward as we are going to be, but we showed glimpses of it."
With Scott Parker emerging unscathed from the 45-minute appearance he was scheduled to have, Hodgson pushed him for a bit longer and was delighted the Tottenham man suffered no reaction to his recent Achilles problem. In contrast, fellow midfielder Barry was forced off shortly after entering the fray as a half-time replacement for Steven Gerrard.
More should be known about Barry's condition tomorrow, with standby players Jordan Henderson and Phil Jagielka in the frame to step in should the Manchester City midfielder be forced out. Concerns over Barry aside, Hodgson is at least in the happy position of having competition for places.
Joleon Lescott, Leighton Baines and Ashley Young all caught the eye last night and none of that trio could be regarded as a member of what, in theory, constitutes England's first-choice line-up. "There is a good chance that some of the players who play against Belgium on Saturday will also be involved in the game against France," said Hodgson. "But a few players have put spanners in the works. It has given me something to think about."
For a coach "parachuted in" with such limited build-up, Hodgson has reason to be thankful for the pre-tournament opponents lined up by predecessor Fabio Capello. Norway provided a taxing workout, and Belgium's visit to Wembley next weekend should be a stiffer task still, as they bring with them Premier League-bound Eden Hazard, Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany and Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen among others.
"I got a lot of answers from Norway because we were playing against a quality opponent," said Hodgson. "Sometimes when you are preparing matches for major tournaments, you tend to choose opponents where it is not going to be that difficult to get a result.
"No one could accuse us, in coming to Norway without four or five of our most famous players, and then playing Belgium, that we have chosen an easy route. If we come through these games with any sort of quality, it will help us when we get to the EUROs."
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