England boss Roy Hodgson is forward thinking
Hodgson plumped for just three out-and-out centre-backs in order to maximise the available attacking strength in depth – a decision that paid dividends as England secured an exhilarating 2-1 win against Wales on Thursday.
Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Marcus Rashford came off the bench in Lens, with the former duo netting to propel England top of Group B ahead of tomorrow’s final match against Slovakia.
“When I selected the 23, people looked at the 23 and there will always be people with opinions,” Hodgson said.
“One of the things that was said was there were only seven out and out defenders but extra midfielders and attackers. But we deliberately went that way because we think in tournaments, that’s what you need. They evolve quickly and they are knock-out games.
“It is nice that people have praised us for our boldness but if we had drawn or lost, it wouldn’t have made any difference to what we would have had to have done against Slovakia. We would have had to win anyway, so why not go 100 per cent for the victory in this one? Especially when I honestly believe that the play [against Wales] deserved a victory.
“I wouldn’t have thought there will be too many supporters out there who didn’t think we deserved to win the game, unless they are really die-hard Welsh supporters.”
Hodgson felt all that was lacking in the first half against Wales was tempo and aggression in the final third, leading to Vardy and Sturridge’s introduction during the break in Lens. The substitutions worked out excellently as England eked out a stoppage time-winner, leading Hodgson to express joyous celebrations rarely seen during his tenure as his country’s manager.
“You can’t feel the pressure of what might happen,” he said of how Gareth Bale’s free-kick changed his half-time emotions. “The beauty of games for me is that once the game starts, I can shut out all the things that are being suggested, said, all the problems, maybe, that we have discussed amongst ourselves and concentrate 100 per cent on what is happening on the field.
“What have we got to do? What’s necessary? Are changes necessary? If so, what changes? Is it formation, is it personnel? And then I steel myself to deal with all the things that will come afterwards.
“Once you allow yourself to get caught up in ‘blimey, if this doesn’t go our way, this, this and this will be said’, you don’t do your job as well as you would like to do it.”