World Cup: England have the ‘weapons’ to succeed – Hodgson

England's Raheem Sterling during a training session at the Estadio do Sao Paulo.
England's Raheem Sterling during a training session at the Estadio do Sao Paulo.
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Roy Hodgson firmly believes England have the fire power to gun down Uruguay and keep their World Cup dreams alive.

After four days of praise, criticism, analysis and debate, crunch time arrives for England tonight.

Manager Hodgson’s 23-man squad landed in Sao Paulo yesterday morning knowing they would almost certainly be boarding a plane back to England next week if they lost.

Only a highly improbable set of circumstances would allow Hodgson’s men to have any chance of making it through if they did so and a draw would take England’s fate out of their own hands

Much has been made of the threat Luis Suarez will pose to England, but Hodgson has extremely talented attackers at his disposal – or “weapons” as he likes to describe them.

And just like in Manaus, Hodgson will tell his young arsenal not to be afraid of going on the attack in Sao Paulo.

“We saw on Saturday night that even a top team like Italy got tested by the quality of our attacking play so we’re not going to put any of our weapons down,” the England manager said.

“Any weapon we’ve got we are going to try and use.”

Hodgson is not a man for Churchillian speeches in the dressing room, so this was as close to a rallying call as we can expect to hear from the England boss.

Hodgson said he was unsure whether the Uruguay match should be regarded as the most important of his 39-year managerial career.

But the former Liverpool and Inter Milan coach clearly understands what is at stake.

“Even though it is the group stages, this is knock-out football,” the 66-year-old said.

“It is an important moment. We want to stay in the competition and to do that we’ve got to get results in the next two games. No-one is running away from that.”

Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck all impressed for England in Manaus, but one big-name player who was criticised for his performance was Wayne Rooney.

Rooney started on the left against the Italians, but he is expected to be moved back into his preferred No 10 role for the Uruguay match.

While Rooney’s form has been a hot topic in England, Uruguay’s build-up to the game has been dominated by Suarez.

Suarez, who scored 31 Premier League goals last season, says he has fully overcome the knee injury he suffered just before the World Cup.

Hodgson admits Suarez is a major threat and he hopes his defence will be able to stifle the Liverpool striker.

“He’s a front player. He plays all along the front line. He makes runs behind defenders, he comes off and gets the ball short,” Hodgson said, when asked if he had a plan to stop Suarez.

“He does all the things you want a top player to do. So all we can do is make certain our defence is compact and we make it difficult for him in terms of not giving him space and the chance to do the things he wants to do.

“His return will be a big boost for them.”

Even the most sceptical England fan would have been loath to criticise the team on Saturday night when they played some eye-catching attacking football, particularly in the first half.

But the defeat left England with plenty of work to do and for that reason Hodgson called the squad together on Sunday to remind them of their predicament.

“The night after the game we got everybody together and I gave them what I thought the state of play was. I was quite honest with them and quite forthright.” said Hodgson, who also invited Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to address the squad.

“I wanted the players to hear something from two senior players too. I thought they (Gerrard and Lampard) spoke very well because they’ve been in World Cups, they know what it’s like to do well in them and not to do well in them.”

Hodgson will ask the England medical staff whether they think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered a knee injury two weeks ago, is fit to play.

“He’s making terrific progress so he is very close but whether he’s close enough for us to risk putting him on the field is something I will have to check with the doctor,” Hodgson said.

Hodgson can take comfort from the fact that unlike in Manaus, very English conditions are forecast on Thursday.

Showers are expected in Sao Paulo and temperature is estimated to rise no higher than 14 degrees Celsius.

“That will be nice for our Manchester and Liverpool boys won’t it?” Hodgson said. “They will feel at home.”

Gerrard has warned his England team-mates they are likely to be in for a long and miserable summer if they do not win tonight.

In their team meeting, Gerrard warned the 22 attentive faces they are now on the brink of World Cup elimination.

“It was important for them to realise what is at stake and how important this game is,” the England captain said. “We have got a must-win scenario.

“It wasn’t a message to scare any of the lads but a wake-up call to everyone in the room – the staff and the players.

“It could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don’t get it right on Thursday,” the Liverpool midfielder said.

“There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it.

“I have been there. I know what that feeling is about and that is the feeling that I don’t want come Friday morning. We need everyone focused and right on it on Thursday, otherwise it will be a terrible, long summer.”