MANAGER Roy Hodgson would love to be able to bottle the attitude and aptitude being displayed by England’s players in what has so far been an ideal preparation for the World Cup.
Now in their second week together, the Three Lions take on Peru in a farewell friendly tonight before jetting off to Miami and onto Brazil.
England have so far spent five days together in the Algarve and this week continued their preparations at St George’s Park, where the players have made quite an impression on Hodgson.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, they’ve all impressed me,” the Three Lions boss said. “They really have.
“It sounds a bit banal to say it, but the bottom line is they have been very impressive in our training sessions.
“If I could bottle what I am seeing at the moment and keep it like that and release it on June 14 (against Italy in the Group D opener), I’d be a happy man.”
England should get the perfect send-off tonight with a packed-out Wembley expected to see a morale-boosting victory against the side ranked 42 in the world.
Luke Shaw is the only fresh doubt to face Peru due to a cold and sore throat, while Manchester United’s Phil Jones is unlikely to start as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury.
Those problems, though, are small compared to those England have faced before major tournaments in the past and Hodgson knows it.
“I don’t think (preparations) could (have gone better),” he said. “All the things we set out to do we have done.
“We have not had any injuries, touch wood, and that is important.
“The players are showing a tremendous appetite and most importantly of all a tremendous awareness of what we have got coming up and what they need to do to realise their dreams as far as this World Cup is concerned.
“Things could not have gone better, but I am a great believer in my favourite author JP Donleavy that when things are going well, watch out because that is when the blow comes from left field and strikes you.”
As well as things going well on the field, England appear to be benefiting from the squad’s blend of youthful exuberance and wily old-timers off it.
Hodgson certainly accepts there is little of the tension and anxiety that has dogged previous squads, but was quick to point to his side’s unwavering focus.
“I am very wary of the word relaxed because that seems to suggest that we are not approaching it with the right degree of seriousness,” he said. “We really are.
“I don’t think that people should be on edge all of the time. I do believe there is a time to do your work and a time to take a step aside from your work and maybe enjoy your leisure time and do something different
“But I must say I have never worked with a team quite as focused as this one, quite as good when the moments to do the work arrive and quite as serious about those things, so if it’s relaxed that’s fine by me.
“What it is by me is how it should be. We are working very seriously, very well and if the players are finding that acceptable that’s perfect.”
Meanwhile, England’s captain Steven Gerrard does not know whether Luis Suarez will be available for the World Cup – and nor does he care.
Gerrard believes England are capable of beating Uruguay with or without his Liverpool team-mate leading the opposition line.
The images of the 27-year-old being carted around in a wheelchair after undergoing keyhole surgery on his knee last week have inevitably led to questions over his participation in Brazil this summer.
Uruguay’s team doctor remains cautiously optimistic about Suarez making the tournament, while Liverpool team-mates Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson have done some investigative work as to the severity of the injury.
Both players have texted the striker to see whether he will be fit for the Group D clash on June 19, although Gerrard has no such concerns.
“I don’t know whether he is going to be available,” the England captain said.
“I think the only people that know whether he is going to be available is Luis himself and the physio and doctors in their team.
“For me, it is not very important, it is something we can’t control and is not my main focus. My main focus is to make sure all the England players are fit and available to play.
“Going into that game we’re very confident that we can get the right result whether Luis is available or not.”
England take on Uruguay in their second Group D match in Sao Paulo, five days after kicking-off their campaign against Italy in Manaus, deep in the heart of the Amazon.
The Three Lions have three friendly matches in preparation for the tournament, taking on Ecuador and Honduras in Miami after their only match on home soil against Peru tonight.
Gerrard knows the importance of fuelling the positivity Prime Minister David Cameron mentioned on his visit to St George’s Park on the eve of the game.
“It was good,” Gerrard said of his visit. “He came in, he was very positive. He wished us all the best and said he was really proud of us and that the country are all excited and behind us.