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  • England v Italy, International friendly

The rebuild finally begins for Hodgson

August 15, 2012
The stakes were higher last time the two sides met © Getty Images
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Roy Hodgson is delighted to welcome back Frank Lampard to the international fold for England's friendly against Italy in Berne tomorrow.

Lampard is set to captain England as they attempt to gain a measure of revenge for their defeat to the Azzurri in Euro 2012.

The Chelsea midfielder was absent for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine due to a groin complaint as England went out at the quarter-final stage on penalties.

Hodgson admitted: "We missed him during the Euros.''

The former Fulham and West Brom boss was also left to bemoan Gareth Barry picking up an injury while Michael Carrick made himself unavailable for selection.

But with the return of Lampard and Carrick, who has ended his self-imposed international exile, to the squad Hodgson has reasons to be cheerful.

"When you have a player of Frank's quality it is a great pity when they get injured. It was the same with Gareth Barry. That was a blow too,'' he said.

"At least Frank is back and we have the added bonus of Michael Carrick being keen to play for us.

"That is another quality player we didn't have during Euro 2012.''

Only James Milner and Ashley Young in the squad started against Italy in the last eight of the European Championship, with Hodgson opting to give younger players experience tomorrow.

There will definitely be a debutant in goal as Birmingham's Jack Butland and John Ruddy of Norwich compete for a starting role, although Hodgson refused to show his hand.

"I haven't given an indication,'' he said. "As far as Jack and John are concerned they are pretty much neck and neck for a place in the team.''

England have been handed a boost with the news Manchester City and Italy striker Mario Balotelli will miss the game after contracting conjunctivitis.

He was replaced by Diego Fabbrini but Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has assured Balotelli that he has a big part to play in Italy's future.

He said: "We were hoping Mario would recover in time, but it wasn't to be.

"I want to give him a key role in the long term and I expect him to accept responsibility when I do.''

Prandelli, like Hodgson, has rested his key stars, in naming an unproven squad, including just three of the players that helped beat England in Kiev.

But he has laid down the gauntlet for his young side to continue the momentum built by Italy's more established stars, who reached the final of Euro 2012.

"We're ready to start the new season with a lot of enthusiasm and we want to do well. I've seen in the eyes of my players that they want to get off to a good start,'' Prandelli said.

"We want to continue down the path we forged at the European Championships, now that we've gained more credibility.

"The objective is to keep playing our game but with more finesse in the execution. We want to make an impact in the game at Berne, a team that knows exactly what to do, and when.''

England player to watch: Having amassed just 22 international caps despite a club career to rival any of his peers, Michael Carrick looks set to start tonight as Roy Hodgson evaluates where he can fit into his plans. A great passer with underrated leadership qualities, Carrick could provide a stabilising influence England have been without for so long.

Italy player to watch: The Italians are undergoing their own experiments, as they build for the World Cup in two years' time. Striker Mattia Destro may be unfamiliar to English audiences but he is highly rated in his homeland - and he could just show why on Wednesday.

Betting: After breaking English hearts last time, Alessandro Diamanti to score any time is 9/2 with bet365.

Prediction: 1-1.

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