England’s boy wonder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was given strict pre-match instructions last night by elderly gaffer Roy Hodgson – don’t worry, be happy.
Hodgson handed the 18-year-old winger his first competitive start in last night’s 1-1 Euro 2012 draw with France in Donetsk.
It was a huge responsibility for a player who only made his Three Lions debut in Norway just over a fortnight ago. But Hodgson was never had any doubts the Arsenal teenager would respond positively.
“He deserved it,” said Hodgson. “The way he’s played since coming into the squad, the performance he gave against Belgium, the ability he has to skip past defenders – which is an important ability to have – is excellent.
“I said to him before the game that this was a big occasion, but there’ll be so many more big occasions in the rest of his career so he shouldn’t hang himself on this occasion.
“I just wanted him to play to the best of his ability and remember he has plenty of games for England ahead of him.”
Hodgson found plenty of reasons to be positive, even though England were largely on the back foot once Samir Nasri levelled Joleon Lescott’s point-black header after half an hour.
One was the central defensive combination of John Terry and Lescott, which was only put together once Gary Cahill had been ruled out of the competition with a fractured jaw.
Teething troubles had been anticipated, especially as the move involved Terry shifting across from his favoured left-sided berth.
No significant problems were evident last night though, as the pair proved solid in spite of France’s dominance in possession.
“They did well,” said Hodgson. “I was never concerned about moving John to the right. He’s a right-footed player.
“They have two right-footed centre-halves at Chelsea and maybe John plays on the left because he’s the more proficient with his left foot.”
England now move on to face Sweden in Kiev on Friday knowing they need a victory to avoid a potentially hazardous last-day assignment against co-hosts Ukraine when they return to Donetsk to conclude Group D.
The positive aspect for Hodgson is that he feels there is room for plenty of improvement in his side after only a short time under his tutelage.
“I’ve had three games,” he said. “I am satisfied with those three games but you don’t become a really good team in three matches and 10 training sessions.
“The French have gone 22 games unbeaten. They’ve not done that overnight. It’s been people playing together, getting to know each other’s games. The longer we play together, the better we’ll become too.”
by Mirror Football