After successfully guiding England through to the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter-finals as Group D winners, Roy Hodgson believes his side have as good a chance as anyone of going all the way in Poland and Ukraine. Ahead of Sunday's last-eight meeting with Italy, the 64-year-old sat down with UEFA.com to discuss the challenges posed by the Azzurri, nurturing team spirit and Steven Gerrard's excellent form since taking over the captaincy.
UEFA.com: What are the challenges you see in the Italy game?
Roy Hodgson: They're a very talented team, like all Italian teams. They've got some excellent technical players, especially in the middle of the park. They're all very good with the ball, all very good at combining and passing, and they're a team with dangerous front players and talented, solid defenders.
Behind all that, of course, they've got one of the world's best goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon, so there's no doubt they're going to be more than worthy opponents. On the other hand, I think we also have some players that I'm sure the Italians will be very wary of.
UEFA.com: Steven Gerrard has been in great form in this tournament. Do you think giving him the captaincy has boosted his international career?
Hodgson: I didn't give it to him in the hope it would improve his play – I just wanted him to play like Steven Gerrard. I gave it to him because I thought he would be the best man for the job. Of course I'm glad it's worked out so well and that all the players are so happy with his captaincy. I'm also delighted he's taken on the responsibility because captaining a team at international level brings a lot of responsibility. You're trying to keep a group of players together who, a lot of the time, are bitter rivals on the field.
UEFA.com: There seems to be a real buzz about the England camp. Is there something you've changed?
Hodgson: Not that I know of. I've just tried to work with the players in the way I've always worked with players. In all the club and national teams I've worked at, I've tried to stay faithful to my principles and the way I think things should be done. I've tried to work very hard with the players on the field, on the coaching and tactical front, which is something I've always done.
When you start talking about moods, you're always comparing, and I've got nothing to compare with. I don't know what moods have been like in the past. I've deliberately not involved myself too much in what previous managers wanted from the team. I've just tried to work hard and get the players to buy into that.
UEFA.com: Before the tournament, many wrote off England's chances. Are you starting to believe it's possible to go all the way?
Hodgson: You've got to believe you've got a chance. You've got to believe that if you can perform to the best of your ability, with a little bit of luck you can go all the way. We've got good examples from the past. If we look into our history books we see Denmark in '92, we saw Greece in Portugal in 2004. I don't know how the media was in Greece, but I know Denmark were written off because they only came into the competition at the very last minute. So we've got good precedents for us to believe 'Why not us?'.
But we're also very realistic and we know that if we're going to have a chance of getting through this game [against Italy], we've got to continue to perform at the level we've been performing at, lose nothing of the good things we've been doing, and keep working on the aspects of our game where improvements could be made.
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