Hodgson: Fate is in our hands

England manager Roy Hodgson has sprung to the defence of Wayne Rooney after the 2-1 defeat to Italy

England manager Roy Hodgson has sprung to the defence of Wayne Rooney after the 2-1 defeat to Italy

First published in National Sport News © by

Roy Hodgson remains confident of qualifying for the second round of the World Cup, but accepts England may have to beat both Uruguay and Costa Rica after their opening 2-1 defeat to Italy.

England produced some breathtaking attacking football, but their defence let them down in the jungle city of Manaus on Saturday night.

The unmarked Claudio Marchisio put Italy ahead from 20 yards and Mario Balotelli got in behind Gary Cahill to grab a crucial second after Daniel Sturridge had equalised.

Although the performance was encouraging, the reality is that England are joint bottom of Group D along with Uruguay, who surprisingly lost 3-1 to Costa Rica earlier on Saturday.

England play Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday before taking on Costa Rica, and Hodgson believes both games are must-win.

"The fact is that if you lose the first game you probably have to win the next two," the England manager said.

"The teams you play against have to win as well, but there is no way you can drift into the second round.

"Italy have the best start, as have Costa Rica, and we and Uruguay are on the back foot.

"We now play Uruguay and Costa Rica, so at least our fate is in our hands."

England caused gasps of excitement inside the Arena Amazonia with their exciting attacking play early on.

Raheem Sterling, making his third England start, took just two minutes to ripple Salvatore Sirigu's side-netting with a 30-yard shot.

Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Leighton Baines also threatened Italy's stand-in goalkeeper, and, had Wayne Rooney taken either of his chances, England would have boarded the flight back to Rio in a happier mood.

Hodgson was excited by what he saw from his young Lions and called on the squad to quickly move on from the loss.

"We have to lift our heads now and make the players realise that if they can reproduce that performance twice more there is a good chance they will get the result," the manager said.

"It's never easy to take positives when you have lost, but I think we all need time to digest what happened on the field. My gut feeling was we did some very good things and there were some good individual performances.

"I thought all the young players did well. None of them let me down or their country down today."

Rooney set up Sturridge with an inch-perfect cross just before the break, but otherwise the Manchester United man struggled to make an impact on the game.

The fact that he played out on the left meant Rooney did not have the chance to make the same runs on goal he enjoys doing so much for his club.

When he did enter the box, he blew one of the best opportunities of the night.

Hodgson refused to criticise the 28-year-old, though.

"We wanted to get Raheem Sterling around (Andrea) Pirlo because of his agility, and that meant moving Wayne Rooney," Hodgson explained.

"He set up the goal and did well. I think it's very harsh to criticise his performance."

Sturridge hobbled off in the second half, but Hodgson confirmed the striker only suffered a dead leg.

England's only injury was to physio Gary Lewin, who broke and dislocated his ankle after landing on a water bottle during the celebrations for the equaliser.

Italy, meanwhile, are now overwhelming favourites to qualify.

Coach Cesare Prandelli was happy with his team's display, but lashed out at officials for not allowing drinks breaks in the 30 degree heat.

He said: "It's truly absurd we cannot consider a time-out.

"If we want entertainment, we need to enable the players to give great performances."

Prandelli, who knocked England out of Euro 2012 with Italy, lavished praise on Hodgson's team.

"Physically, we were a bit better than England, but I think England are one of the strongest teams at the World Cup," he said.

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