Hodgson says young England team is intent on delivering perfect run

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manager Roy Hodgson is planning a “very interesting” line-up against Lithuania as England look to go through a qualification campaign with a 100 per cent record for the first time.

The road to next summer’s European Championship has proven a cakewalk for the Three Lions, highlighted by the fact they were the first nation to secure their place in France.

Hodgson’s men have swatted away sides with ease and will enter the record books if they finish Group E with a win in Vilnius today.

It would be the first time England have won every match in qualifying for a major tournament, while they would become just the sixth side to do so on the way to the European Championship.

Hodgson’s squad players are being charged with finishing the job in Vilnius, where Jack Butland, Phil Jones and Jonjo Shelvey are set to start in a team captained by Phil Jagielka in the absence of Wayne Rooney, Gary Cahill and Joe Hart.

“It is a big occasion,” the England manager said on the eve of the match.

“I think all qualifiers are big occasions. We are looking forward to it.

“We are very fortunate in the sense that we have come through the match on Friday evening (2-0 win against Estonia) unscathed in terms of injuries.

“I think we have a very interesting team for Phil to lead out (today) – a young team, obviously, but players that we believe in.

“We are very conscious of the fact that we have a perfect record and we also know it is not a given that we will win the game.

“We are playing a team that also wants to win – adept, if you like, at playing on the surface that we’ll be playing on.

“It is a tough task ahead of us, but we’re ready for that I think and we will do our level best to try and achieve it.”

Few expect England to come a cropper in today’s dead rubber in the Baltics, with bookmakers pricing Lithuania at 10-1 to emerge victorious.

The most difficult aspect against the side ranked 116th in the world is likely to be the surroundings, given the tiny LFF Stadium has an artificial pitch.

However, Hodgson downplayed its impact having led a team at the 5,000-capacity stadium during his time in club management.

“The surroundings are of no interest whatsoever,” he said. “I have actually been to the stadium myself because I played a game against a team called Vetra with Fulham there over six years ago.

“I know the surroundings, I know the stadium – I thought it was a very nice stadium. Obviously we don’t play on artificial surfaces all the time, but most of our players have some experience.

“I am not overly concerned about that. The ball will run true and we need to make sure we play the sort of football that will be necessary to win the game.”

Hodgson thinks it is vital that England start Euro 2016 with a bang next summer. History shows a good qualifying record counts for little when it comes to major tournaments.

Fabio Capello took England to South Africa in 2010 after just one qualifying defeat, but the Three Lions scraped through an easy group at the tournament in 2010 before being hammered by Germany in the second round.

After negotiating his way through a difficult qualification group Hodgson took England to Brazil full of hope in 2014, but a damaging early defeat to Italy and a loss to Uruguay meant they were eliminated at the earliest possible opportunity.

Hodgson has seen England’s rugby team suffer a similar fate recently and he knows a strong start will be key to his squad’s chances of success in France.

“What would have given us a better chance in the tournament last time is winning the first game, or certainly not losing it,” the England manager said.

“Tournaments are three cup finals. It’s not a league. The qualification period is a league, but when you get there you just need that little bit of luck. The World Cup is three matches. We’ve just seen it with rugby.

“It’s 14 weeks’ preparation, four years if you like, working with the team, and then you come across Wales and you don’t win it, which puts you under pressure for the second game. And then you come up against Australia, who are the second favourites, and you don’t win it, so therefore after that everything’s woeful and disastrous. That’s how simple tournaments are. For all your preparation, for all your work, if you get there, play brilliantly in the first game but lose it 1-0 to a dodgy penalty, you’re a disaster. That’s what we’ve understood.”

The final preparation stage for France 2016 starts next month when the tournament hosts come to Wembley and England travel to the holders Spain for two stiff friendly tests.

World champions Germany await England in March and the Football Association are also planning a friendly against Holland before the finals.