Roy Hodgson was last night forced to defend himself against allegations that he had taken England back into the footballing “dark ages”.
Gary Lineker had fiercely criticised Hodgson's predictable 4-4-2 system after it produced another ponderous performance in the laboured 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland.
“Don't like England playing this system,” Lineker wrote on Twitter, and predicted defeat in Sunday's away friendly against Brazil. “So easy to play against. Brazil will thrash us if we line up the same way. Predictable and dated.”
“Felt tactically England were maturing, but this is a step back to the dark ages of 2 lines of 4.”
Hodgson, of course, defended his team and his tactics, even going as far as comparing them to Borussia Dortmund, German champions of 2011 and 2012 and last weekend's Champions League runners up, who had dazzled Europe with their buccaneering football.
“I thought we played well enough, especially in the second half,” said Hodgson. “The quality of the play was good. I can't be too disappointed with the way we tried to win the game.”
“There's been far too much discussion about systems. We look to find systems. I was asked to do programme notes for Uefa about the systems Bayern and Dortmund had brought to European football, but Borussia Dortmund played 4-4-2 in the same way we played 4-4-2.”
England now head to Brazil for Sunday's glamour friendly in Rio de Janeiro. But they are facing a crisis with their strikers after Daniel Sturridge was carried off with an ankle injury. Neither Jermain Defoe, who came on, or Danny Welbeck, who missed out, are 100 per cent fit and so Wayne Rooney is England's only fully fit striker.
Sturridge has presumed ankle ligament damage after a scan. “A major blow for him, and for us,” Hodgson assessed. “I don't want to say it's a serious injury, but it'll keep him out for a period of time. I don't think anything's broken, but the doctor and the orthopaedic surgeon will have to contact Liverpool.”
Hodgson was left hoping that Welbeck would recover in time to face the five-time world champions. “The swelling in his knee has gone down. It's a question of whether we've got enough time between tomorrow and Sunday whether he plays. It'll be touch and go, but he's not ruled out.”
So Hodgson's options are limited for Sunday. “It looks pretty much as if the 15 players who saw us through this game are going to have to see us through the next game as well.”