- POSTED: 19 Jun 2014 22:02
England manager Roy Hodgson knows Uruguay's Luis Suarez has the potential to wreck his World Cup dreams and wants his defenders on high alert for Thursday's clash in Sao Paulo.
RIO DE JANEIRO: England manager Roy Hodgson knows Uruguay's Luis Suarez has the potential to wreck his World Cup dreams and wants his defenders on high alert for Thursday's clash in Sao Paulo.
Suarez ended the 2013-14 season with Player of the Year prizes from both the Professional Footballers' Association and the Football Writers' Association, as well as the Premier League Golden Boot, after plundering 31 goals in Liverpool's vain pursuit of the English title.
Having missed Uruguay's 3-1 loss to Costa Rica after undergoing knee surgery last month, he is expected to face England at the Corinthians Arena on Thursday and Hodgson believes that his likely impact cannot be underestimated.
"We believe Luis Suarez will come back and that will be a big boost for them, not just as a player but as a sort of confidence booster for the whole team," Hodgson told journalists before flying to Sao Paulo.
"Football is about football players at the end of the day. A team can be organised or less well organised, but the bottom line is always going to be: 'What players have you got? What exceptional players have you got?'
"And an exceptional player can lift a team. We saw (Diego) Maradona do it with Napoli all those years ago.
"Napoli had never won anything seriously in Italy then suddenly Maradona pitches up in Italy and they become champions of Italy and they won the UEFA Cup."
England centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka can at least call upon the experience of their previous tussles with Suarez, but Hodgson says that keeping the former Ajax man quiet will require a collective effort.
"He's a front player. He plays all along the front line," said the former Liverpool manager.
"He makes runs behind defenders, he comes off and gets the ball short. He does all the things you want a top player to do.
"So all we can do is make certain our defence is compact and we make it difficult for him in terms of not giving him space and the chance to do the things he wants to do."
Like Uruguay, England lost their opening Group D game, going down 2-1 to Italy in Manaus, but they earned plaudits for their attacking enterprise.
While shackling Suarez and Edinson Cavani will be a key priority against the South American champions, Hodgson is aware that his emerging England side are at their best on the front foot.
"We saw the other night that even a top team like Italy got tested by the quality of our attacking play, so we're not going to put any of our weapons down," he said.
"Any weapon we've got, we are going to try and use."
Hodgson refused to discuss Wayne Rooney's likely role against Uruguay, but British newspaper reports on Wednesday suggested he will be restored to the number 10 position after being exiled to the left flank against Italy.
Asked if the pressure was now on England, Hodgson replied: "Of course it is. We want to stay in the competition and to stay in the competition, we've got to get results in the next two games.
"It is knockout football, even though it is the group stage. Any team that's lost its first game is entering a knockout stage, even in the league stage."
Hodgson addressed the squad on Sunday evening and he revealed that captain Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard also spoke to the players to emphasise what was at stake ahead of Thursday's game.
"I invited them to speak and they both spoke well," Hodgson said.
"Neither of them stood up. They just sat down and said a few sentences, but as Steven Gerrard is very good at it, he can say in two or three sentences what it takes me 10 minutes to talk through."