• International Friendly: Brazil v England

Hodgson bemoans striker crisis

ESPN staff
June 2, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
England manager Roy Hodgson may have to play himself against Brazil... © PA Photos
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England hope to end their season on a high in Sunday's friendly with Brazil at the Maracana, but Roy Hodgson has been left picking up the pieces from what has been a difficult campaign.

The two teams meet in Rio de Janeiro having already gone head-to-head at Wembley, where England produced their finest performance of the year in a 2-1 win over the samba stars.

But that victory, along with an 8-0 win in San Marino shortly after, failed to paper over the cracks as draws against Poland, Ukraine and Montenegro have left England with the realistic possibility that if they want to return to Brazil next summer for the World Cup, they'll have to do it via a play-off.

And Hodgson's biggest concern as the season comes to a close is the lack of English strikers scoring regularly at the highest levels.

Injuries to Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll and Daniel Sturridge have left just Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe as the only recognised strikers in the squad.

"We're not winning enough games," said Hodgson. "But one of the areas where we've been unfortunate is in the choice and availability of front players. Three of the front players I would like to have brought here have not been available for selection.

"The other night one that we pinned high hopes on, Daniel Sturridge, had to go off injured.

"We would like a stronger pool of front players to choose from, so when one or two get injured we still have (some) left.

"If you look at the Premier League most of the strikers are foreigners. We pick from the players that we have and I thought picking Wayne Rooney and Sturridge was a very exciting attacking duo."

Brazil have no such worries and young striker Neymar, who has already dismissed England's chances at the World Cup, will be keen to impress his new employers Barcelona.

The defeat at Wembley in February was the first game of Felipe Scolari's second stint in charge of Brazil, a result which kicked off a run of just one win in five. But despite England's injury woes, Scolari remains cautious.

"The English team have good players and they have a renewed team and good technical players," he said. "In the past 10 to 15 years, England has improved a lot technically and I think we will see a good game - not long balls.

"[Hodgson] has put many young players in his team and maybe now the national team for England is better than before, even if other teams are still ahead: Spain, Germany… Maybe even Brazil.

"England beat us in London, but they are struggling to get to the World Cup, so it is an important game [for them]."

Form


England head into tonight's game on the back of a four-match unbeaten run which includes that victory against Brazil at Wembley and putting eight past minnows San Marino. The draw against Ireland on Wednesday was laboured and big improvements are needed if they want to end their season with a win.

Surprisingly, Brazil are in worse form than England. The defeat at Wembley was preceded by a draw with Colombia and loss to Argentina. Since then, friendly draws with Italy, Russia and Chile sandwiched victory over Bolivia.

Team News


Roy Hodgson has just 15 outfield players at his disposal after injuries to key strikers, meaning Theo Walcott may get a chance to show what he can do in his preferred striker role. Everton full-back Leighton Baines may have to fill in at left midfield, while Hodgson has also confirmed Phil Jones will start at the Maracana.

Brazil have no such worries and will start with three Premier League players in David Luiz, Oscar and Julio Cesar, as well as Barcelona new-boy Neymar.

One to Watch


If Theo Walcott is given the chance up front, then he'll be keen to impress and expect him to give the Brazilian defenders a torrid evening. At the other end of the pitch, it's that man Neymar.

Key Battle


Roy Hodgson has already confirmed that Phil Jones will start the game, with the England manager likely selecting him as the man to keep Neymar quiet. Jones had an excellent second-half of the season for Manchester United, including a man-of-the-match performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Prediction and Bet


Brazil are always heavy favourites in their own back yard and that is certainly the case tonight.

Odds from bet365: Brazil 4/7, England 11/2, Draw 16/5

Prediction: As much as it pains us to say, we fancy Brazil to gain their revenge on England. Get on them to win 2-1 with Neymar to score first at 25/1.

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