England manager Roy Hodgson told UEFA.com that he was looking forward to the challenge of leading his country into UEFA EURO 2012 but conceded the lowered expectations surrounding the team may be justified given his late appointment and a spate of injuries.
The 64-year-old highlighted the importance of understanding players' individual mentalities in order to be successful at a major tournament and explained why Wayne Rooney could yet prove the difference should England progress to the latter stages.
UEFA.com: They call the England manager's job the 'impossible job'. What do you make of it so far?
Roy Hodgson: I've enjoyed it so far, it's been very good. It's been anything but impossible. It's not impossible to work with good players, it's not impossible to work in perfect conditions, it's not impossible to have everything that you possibly need as a football coach provided for you. Whether or not the job is going to be deemed impossible because England don't win a tournament is another matter, but certainly nothing seems to be impossible for me at the moment and I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead.
UEFA.com: Expectations are considerably lower for England heading into the tournament. Why do you think that is?
Hodgson: Several reasons. First of all, one of our best players, Wayne Rooney, is suspended for the first two matches. Secondly, we've lost a lot of players to injury – Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and now a younger, up-and-coming player in Gary Cahill. Also the fact that the FA didn't want to disrupt Premier League teams in their search for a manager. They wanted to leave the appointment as late as possible so that if they were going to a Premier League team, as they had to in my case, they were giving that team as good a chance as possible of finishing the season strongly, so I came into the picture very late. I don't think any other teams have a manager who's only been in the job three to four weeks. Maybe it's only right that expectations are lower because 1966 was the last time we actually won a tournament. It's even been a while since we reached a semi-final [EURO '96].
UEFA.com: On the pitch the signs have been promising. Is there anything you can take from the friendly wins against Norway and Belgium to suggest England can win this tournament?
Hodgson: I wouldn't like to do that. What I take from those two games is the fact that the players are committed to what we're trying to do to become a better team. There were some very encouraging signs in both games because we chose what I think were quite difficult matches for our warm-up friendlies. We went to Oslo, where Norway rarely lose, and took on Belgium who, at the moment, are a team with many players who are extremely highly rated all around Europe. We didn't give ourselves an easy send-off, so I was pleased with the resilience of the team, pleased with the way we could defend and make it hard for those two teams to score and, of course, more than happy that we actually came out winning.
UEFA.com: You've coached internationally several times before, perhaps most notably with Switzerland at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. What are the ingredients for a successful tournament?
Hodgson: First we need to be lucky with injuries, which we haven't been before the tournament, so let's hope that we're going to have some luck during it. You need to make sure that you're always very thorough in terms of preparation, particularly in terms of thinking about what the players need, how they're feeling, what would be best for them. I think sometimes we forget as coaches what pressures the players are under, both physically and mentally, so it's very important to focus on trying to put yourself into a player's shoes.
UEFA.com: How important a role can Wayne Rooney play when he does return?
Hodgson: He's a world-class player. He's a player that can make things happen and when you're talking about football at European Championship level it's often these players who are the important one because the games are often relatively tight. It's not simply a case of one team being clearly better than another. We're talking about 16 of the very best teams in Europe, possibly the world, so you know that the games are going to be tight, you know that the margins which are going to decide things are going to be small, and it's the players like Rooney that can decide the game. We're going to miss him for the first two games but when he comes back we'll be considerably stronger.
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