By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 3rd 2014)
England coach Roy Hodgson confirmed that Frank Lampard would captain England in their penultimate preparation match for the World Cup in Brasil. “I’m proud to be captain and of the responsibilities that come with it”, Lampard said. Hodgson said that there would be changes in the team from the one that faced Perú for the team’s send-off at Wembley. “I can tell you against Ecuador that the priority lies in defence”.
However, Hodgson seemed to admit that he didn’t know much about his opponents after the last practice session before the match. “We know that Ecuador are a very good team and we’ll have a meeting now where we’ve put together a video, which we’ll show to our players, which we hope will give them a pretty good idea how Ecuador play and where the dangers will come tomorrow”, he said.
Lampard added. We know about individuals obviously. Valencia plays in the Premier League for Manchester United. I think it’s not about the team and players. It’s more about getting accustomed to styles when you travel to the World Cup. Different style of football – South American teams. Individually and as a group it’s good for us to come against South American styles”.
When quizzed further by Ecuadoran media Hodgson started to play a straight bat. that he knew little about their team and players. “Obviously we do think Ecuador can make life difficult for us, because first of all they qualified for the World Cup, which is no mean achievement”, Hodgson said. It’s very difficult to qualify for the World Cup, so we have enormous respect for them and for their players”.
He then admitted that the preparations had not focused on the threat Ecuador may pose. “When it comes to individuals you’ll have to understand our major focus is preparing for matches against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica and these friendly matches, we’ve worked very, very hard on our own preparations”, Hodgson said.
The focus was firmly on England in the preparations. “… as a result I must admit that we are not anywhere near as well prepared in terms of letting the players know everything there is to know about Ecuador as I hope we will be when it comes to the Italians”.
Lampard seemed more aware of Ecuador’s players and tactics. “For me the strength is in their wingers and their attacking players”.
“If I could just step in for one moment”, Hodgson said to spare Lampard the tricky question of what he thought about the development of Ecuadoran football. “These are extremely difficult questions” … before comparing it to Ecuadoran knowledge of League One team Crewe Alexandra. It got a huge laugh.
“You have a slight advantage” Hodgson said. “The Premier Leagueis broadcast across the world. The only time we get to research your football is when we come to the World Cup. You have to excuse us we can’t comment on who has come furthest and not having the expert knowledge you have of Premier League football”.
His opposite number Ecuador’s Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda didn’t take Hodgson’s response seriously. “In the 21st century you have all those available options to see players and different logistics, so I don’t know if he’s just saying that”, Rueda said. He also thought it impossible to gauge England’s chances against Uruguay from a match against his team. “In the end it [comparison] doesn’t really exist”, he said. “These are preparation games and teams are not really the same”.
Understandably his focus is on the World Cup and he expected Rueda to share his expectations. “We expect Ecuador to approach the game in exactly the same way that we do”, Hodgson said. “I’m sure their main focus is their opening game in Brasil and not the game here, but I also think they’ll be very interested in the game, because it will give them a chance to continue their preparation.”
He still anticipated an exciting match. “I’m pretty sure that my colleague [Rueda] will have the same opinion as myself”, Hodgson said. “He’ll want to see a very good game of football. He’ll want to see his team doing well. He’ll want to come away from the game with no injuries. He’ll consider hopefully that he’s taken a step forward on the way to choosing the team for the World Cup for Ecuador”.
Hodgson said that he was very comfortable with the players that he brought here. He wanted some players to take the opportunity to impress him further, suggesting that some ‘fringe’ players would be given a chance to shine. “It’s a preparation game, leading up to the important things on the 14th June, so it’s all one step along the road”. He wants to see the team play well and some individual performances and crucially that no injuries occur.
Lampard admitted that it was a huge wrench to be leaving Chelsea after 13 years, but his focus was on England, although it is something that he may talk about more later, especially for the Chelsea fans.
“We’ve all been involved in my two World Cups, in slightly disappointing campaigns – different degrees – when you don’t win, disappointing, but you keep coming back”, Lampard said. “You’ll be stronger for the experience of doing so and personally I’m really happy to be among a really exciting young squad, lots of speed, lots of skill, lots of youthful exuberance and I’m enjoying every minute”.