Hodgson backs Rooney to come good
8:31pm Wednesday 18th June 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Roy Hodgson is hoping for a big performance from Wayne Rooney in England's crunch match against Uruguay on Thursday.
Rooney's place in the England team has come under scrutiny recently after a number of indifferent displays, the latest of which came in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in Manaus.
Hodgson refused to agree with the idea that Rooney is an "exceptional" player during England's World Cup training camp in Miami.
That was interpreted as a sign that Hodgson's confidence in Rooney is on the wane, but, on the eve of England's crucial Group D match in Sao Paulo, the England manager gave his backing to the Manchester United man.
"He came into this tournament wanting to do very well and I think he will do very well in the tournament," the England manager told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"Wayne has got broad shoulders. He's getting a lot of support from everyone around him.
"We've got a very clear perspective as to what Wayne is and what Wayne can do.
"We're hoping for big things from him."
Paul Scholes has been Rooney's most surprising critic of late, claiming prior to the World Cup that his former team-mate might be past his best.
But Hodgson will not listen to the naysayers. The England manager is expected to start Rooney in Sao Paulo on Thursday, possibly down the middle, rather than on the left, where he played against Italy.
Hodgson has every reason to give Rooney his backing.
After all, Rooney scored seven goals in qualifying, including the vital header that put England ahead in their must-win clash against Poland in October.
"He's been the top assist player in my two years (as England manager) and he has more goals than everyone else," Hodgson said.
"Were it not for his wonderful header against Poland we might not even be here."
As it stands, victories against Uruguay, who have Luis Suarez available after he recovered from a knee injury, and Costa Rica would definitely send England through.
If England drew on Thursday and won their final group game, they would need Italy to beat Costa Rica and Uruguay to progress.
A loss in Sao Paulo would leave England needing a huge goal difference swing, and other results to go their way, to make it through to the second round.
Hodgson is targeting two wins, but he thinks four points may be enough.
"We realise it's not as drastic as two must-win games, you can get through with four points, but we are not really counting on that," the 66-year-old said.
England vice-captain Frank Lampard was in the last England team to lose their opening match at a tournament when Sven-Goran Eriksson's side were beaten 2-1 by France at Euro 2004.
England responded by beating Croatia and Switzerland to make it through to the knockout stages, where they lost to Portugal on penalties.
Lampard says fear of failure carried the squad through to the knockout stages 10 years ago and he hopes that will be the same case in Brazil too.
"I was enjoying the tournament [in 2004] so much that I was so scared of getting knocked out by losing the second game," said the midfielder, who will win his 106th cap if he comes off the bench in Sao Paulo.
"I remember the fear factor of it myself. It was not a negativity fear, I just didn't want it to happen.
"There is nothing wrong with that and I think we have to take that with us now into the Uruguay game. We do not want to go home. We have got an exciting team, we showed glimpses against Italy so we have to attack this game wanting to get the right result.
"If we focus and we do all the right things we are doing in training and behind the scenes, then we will go and get a result. Then, all of a sudden it all opens up for us a bit more."