Tough task facing Roy's boys

Salisbury Journal: Roy Hodgson admits England's group will be difficult to advance from Roy Hodgson admits England's group will be difficult to advance from

Roy Hodgson admitted it was tough - but it was a gesture from FA chairman Greg Dyke that confirmed just what a difficult task England have been handed in next summer's World Cup.

When England were confirmed as the final team in Group D, in the same group as Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica, Dyke drew his fingers across his throat in a cut-throat gesture.

In its own way it was as decisive as Dyke's bold statement at the start of his reign that he expected England to win the 2022 World Cup.

It said England are doomed.

Hodgson clearly does not see it that way.

Indeed, to take some positives out of a tough situation, it is that a European team must be faced in the extreme humidity of the Amazon when England take a five-hour flight to Manaus to face Italy on Saturday, June 14.

In addition, Uruguay are not the force they were in 2010, when they reached the semi-finals and were beaten in a five-goal thriller by Holland in Cape Town.

That Uruguay and Costa Rica will be met in Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte respectively, a combined distance of only 500 miles from England's base in Rio de Janeiro, is also a cause for celebration.

On the negative side, Belo Horizonte was the place where England suffered one of the most embarrassing days of their entire history when they were beaten by United States at the 1950 tournament.

And whilst that sorry night will have no effect on next summer, Dyke and Hodgson know progress will not be easy.

"There is no doubt with Uruguay and Italy we have almost got two number one seeds in our group," Hodgson told the BBC.

"You are always hoping. But to be frank there weren't many scenarios where I would have been jumping for joy.

"There were many when I would be thinking this is going to be very tough for us.

"To get one that is a bit tougher doesn't surprise me at all."

There is an irony in England opening their campaign against the side that ended their last one.

Italy knocked England out of Euro 2012 on penalties in Kiev last year.

"Italy were very unlucky not to be seeded in the first eight," said Hodgson.

"Of course we know how good they are because we lost to them on penalties in the quarter-finals of the European Championships.

"The good thing is that we know each other and the other thing in our favour is that the game we have got in the north, where the conditions are going to be tough climacticly, is against another European team so we are both going to be in the same boat."

The bookmakers delivered their own verdict by lengthening England's tournament odds.

Hodgson also knows a team from Group C - likely to be either Colombia, Greece or Ivory Coast - will be lying in wait if England make it through, with the potential for a meeting with either hosts Brazil or holders Spain to follow in the quarter-finals.

It could hardly be tougher.

But Hodgson is remaining optimistic.

"I am still very positive about the whole affair," he said.

"You just never know. You don't look at football matches on paper and think we will win this one, draw this one and lose the other.

"On each occasion it is 11 v 11 and if you are well prepared you have a chance.

"Having at least two of the three games in a climate that might be a bit kinder to us is one of the things I was looking for.

"The most important thing is that we are here.

"We are in an interesting group, there is no doubt about that. We have some top quality opponents so the three matches we play will be very exciting. They will attract big audiences all around the world."

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