Belfast Telegraph

England manager Roy Hodgson vows to make it to Brazil

By Sam Wallace

Roy Hodgson issued a rallying cry last night, predicting that England would meet public expectation by reaching the World Cup finals in Brazil next summer, as his side prepare for the first of their final two qualifiers against Montenegro tonight.

The England boss faces Montenegro at Wembley with some big selection calls to make.

He is expected to find room for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge who has eight goals in nine games this season, but there are doubts over whether Jack Wilshere will get the nod to play in midfield ahead of Frank Lampard.

Hodgson said: "It's a big responsibility, taking on the role as manager of an England team.

"We are England, we are one of the big nations and we're expected to qualify for World Cups and European Championships.

"If that doesn't happen, you'll get criticism. If you're wise, you realise there'll be criticism during qualifying as well.

"I suppose, as a football coach, you might like (the issue of) whether the team is preparing well or developing well being taken into account, but we all realise that England expects.

"They expect us to play well in these two games, win them and reach the World Cup.

"That's what we're going to be doing our level best to do."

A win tonight and against Poland on Tuesday would ensure England qualify as winners of Group H.

They could feasibly qualify by beating Montenegro and drawing with Poland; should the Poles beat Ukraine in Kharkiv tonight.

Second place in the group would mean England go into the play-offs next month for the remaining spots.

"I don't think we've made excuses anyway," Hodgson added.

"I would be saddened to think my time as national coach has been riddled with excuses. We've taken responsibility all along. We're not looking for excuses. We're looking to play the game.

"We're ready for it. We believe in ourselves, trust in each other, we have the right determination and motivation. What more can I say to describe where we are? You can look at scenarios, winning 5-0 each game and playing great football, or the Doomsday scenarios. But we'll take each game as it comes."

Meanwhile, record-breaking England goalkeeper Peter Shilton believes Hodgson is in "a no-win situation" over Joe Hart's (left) calamitous recent form, but admits the national team number one has brought criticism on himself.

Hart has been in inconsistent form for over a year and a number of recent errors have led to question marks over his position.

His closest rival for the jersey, West Brom's Ben Foster, is currently out injured and Hart will undoubtedly start England's final two World Cup qualifiers.

Shilton, who made a record 125 appearances for England, admits Hodgson has little choice but to keep faith in the out-of-sorts Manchester City man.

"Joe's brought it on himself a little bit because he has been very inconsistent over the last year and even his own club manager Manuel Pellegrini is starting to make noises about him," said Shilton.

"Whether he's taken his eye off the ball, I don't know. He got in the team and was full of confidence and a breath of fresh air for the England team but at the moment he's put himself under pressure.

"The only way to get out of it is to play, keep clean sheets, roll up your sleeves and train hard and stay in that England team.

"If we win the next two games and keep clean sheets in them then he can build on that.

"But he's got to get rid of these silly errors because he can't afford them. People will point the finger.

"Roy Hodgson is in a no-win situation at the moment.

"Ben Foster isn't fit and the other two, John Ruddy and Fraser Forster, have played less than one full game between them and you could have the Scott Carson scenario. He was put in for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against Croatia, made an error on the first shot they had and we didn't qualify."

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