Roy Hodgson has "no doubt" that his England side will rise to the occasion at UEFA EURO 2016, telling UEFA.com: "I'd like to see the players really believe in themselves."
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At 68, Roy Hodgson knows better than to make predictions ahead of UEFA EURO 2016, but as he leads England into a third successive major final tournament, he is confident his squad will not let themselves down in France.
UEFA.com: England qualified with a 100% record and the best goal difference of any nation. What does that say about your side?
Roy Hodgson: It says a lot for the professionalism and the seriousness with which the team takes the task ahead of it that it was able to go out and win games. It's nice to have that record. With the level of competition that we face, and with the so-called smaller teams always getting stronger, there are not going to be many teams in the future that have 100% records.
UEFA.com: What kind of football do you want to see England play?
Hodgson: I want to see winning football, basically. Whenever you get questions on footballing philosophy, the only answers that are possible are trite ones. We're a good team to watch. Personally, I'm quite proud of the football that we play.
I'm hoping the team will go to the EUROs full of confidence and prepared to express themselves, because that, as a coach, is the thing that always bothers you the most: that occasions are going to in some way inhibit your team's performance. I'd like to see the players really believe in themselves and believing that they are as good as we, the coaching and management staff, think they are.
UEFA.com: Can you give us your thoughts on your group stage opponents in France?
Hodgson: We were given Russia, we were given Wales and we were given Slovakia. We think they're all very good opponents. Being seeded No1 in your group means nothing. You've got to win the games. It is like the Premier League – it doesn't matter whether you're No1 in the league and playing the No2, or you're No1 playing the No20, you've still got one heck of a game on your hands if you're going to get a result. And that will be our attitude.
UEFA.com: England teams have been accused of underestimating opponents in the past – is that something you have to be wary of?
Hodgson: Right from the very first moment, I've never had any reason to complain or even to question the attitude and the application of the players. That's something which is done on the outside, because people work from the result backwards. I know the games that haven't gone well for us, it's not been as a result of application, attitude or desire, because I've never had any cause to think that.
UEFA.com: England's opening match is against Russia. How important is it to start on the right footing?
Hodgson: I don't have anything to say which isn't clichéd and which every coach I've ever seen interviewed has said before me. 'We need to get off to a good start', 'it's good to win your first game'. The problem is, what happens if you don't? You've got to adopt a much more sanguine approach to it and you've got to work on the basis that we've got to be as well prepared as we can possibly be. The players have got to be as focused and as inspired as they can possibly be to play that game – which they will be, I have no doubt whatsoever.
UEFA.com: How do you and the players deal with the expectations weighted upon you?
Hodgson: In the best way possible. I don't think it's just the England team – all teams have that. Once you get to a national team you're carrying the weight, hopes and expectations of a whole nation on your shoulders.
The important thing for us to know, as a football team, is what we expect of ourselves. And we, the coaching staff, think we're entitled to set the bar quite high.