Hodgson on defensive as Lineker mocks ‘awful’ England
Manager returns verbal volley after former national skipper takes to Twitter to label goalless draw against against Ukraine as 'awful'
England football manager Roy Hodgson defended his side against criticism from former national team captain Gary Lineker after their lacklustre 0-0 draw against Ukraine in World Cup qualifying.
The result sent England a point clear at the top of European qualifying Group H with two games remaining, but they were wasteful in possession and looked short of ideas at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium.
Lineker, now a television presenter, criticised Hodgson’s team via Twitter on several occasions during Tuesday’s game.
The 52-year-old former striker, who is his country’s second all-time leading scorer, branded England’s display “awful” and said Hodgson’s players “pass it like they’ve never been introduced to each other”.
He also joked: “We’re seeing a lot of one-touch football. England have a touch. Ukraine have a touch. England have a touch...”
Hodgson’s side have only beaten Moldova and minnows San Marino in the qualifying campaign so far, but the England coach said Lineker’s comments were unjustified.
“He’s done it for the second time. My disappointment would be that I remember Gary Lineker playing, I remember him captaining the team, and playing some great games for England,” he told reporters.
“But I’m pretty sure he played in some games as well where it wasn’t that easy, and I don’t think that every game he played in was a total success.
“I do my best to placate most guys, but I’ve just seen a group of players missing seven first-team squad members beat Moldova 4-0 and come to Ukraine and draw 0-0.
“But don’t think you’ll get me agreeing with these opinions, because I’ve been in football for 38 years and I’ll stick to my opinions and you can have yours and Gary can have his.”
Hodgson was missing a number of important players, with Danny Welbeck suspended and Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Andy Carroll, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones all injured.
Faced with the accusation that England had struggled to conserve possession against Ukraine, Hodgson said his side had demonstrated their ease with the ball in Friday’s 4-0 win over Moldova at Wembley.
“If you’re saying: ‘Did we play longer balls forward earlier today [Tuesday]?’ Yes, we did,” he said.
“That was a tactical change. We didn’t want to play out from the back early and invite pressure from a very strong pressurising team.
“You’ve just seen us play against Moldova, and if you are prepared to stand there and say that the England team I’m coaching can’t keep the ball and play out from the back and play through the midfield, then there’s no point having a conversation because we’re just totally disagreeing.”
Hodgson did concede, however, that Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who was guilty more than most England players of giving the ball away, was short of fitness.
“Jack obviously is still looking for full fitness. As a result, in the second half we felt a need to take him off,” he said.
“Obviously we saw a much more effective Jack against Moldova than tonight, but he certainly did his work and did all the things I asked of him tactically.”
He added: “I’m also pleased to know that we can play two different types of game.
“We can take the responsibility of having to beat Moldova, albeit that we have the ball all the time, and we can also come to a place like Ukraine and go away with a 0-0, which, in my opinion, was fully deserved.”
Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomenko, whose side remain a point behind England, felt the draw was a fair reflection of the game.
“As I said before the game, we were playing against a team that belongs to the European elite,” he said.
“They’re a strong team. When they tried, we defended, and when we tried, they defended, and you saw the result.”
England will qualify for Brazil if they win their final two matches, both at Wembley, against Montenegro and Poland.