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Wednesday 13 December 2017

hodgson: it'searly days

England boss pleads for patience as side look to kick on against Sweden

England manager Roy Hodgson has pleaded for patience as the Three Lions take the first tentative steps towards being the team he expects them to be.

Although the reaction to Monday's draw with France was largely positive, a vast discrepancy in possession was noted.

Laurent Blanc was evidently unimpressed, claiming if France "had played against a really good side" in Donetsk, they would have lost.

Against a significantly inferior Sweden outfit in Kiev tonight, far more is expected.

Hodgson understands the sentiment. However, he hopes the realisation he has spent only three weeks and four games into his new role helps temper the demand for excellence.

"One would hope people will be patient," he said.

"I am satisfied with what I think we are achieving only three weeks into the job.

"Maybe I can't satisfy everyone and other people would like to see more.

"I am realistic and pragmatic. Five, six or seven training sessions into the job we are making a fist of it.

"I am sure we will get better. Just a simple thing like the return of Wayne Rooney will make us into a stronger team and a bigger threat."

Rooney is missing tonight, completing the final game of his two-match suspension.

It robs England of their talisman as they prepare to face a Sweden side whose hopes appear to rely on their own star man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The phenomenon that Ibrahimovic has become is somewhat bizarre in that vast swathes of continental Europe rate the 30-year-old extremely highly.

In England, though, he is dismissed as massively overrated, largely due to a succession of woeful displays against the Premier League's finest.

An incredible nine league titles in 10 seasons, with five different clubs in three countries -- the two he secured with Juventus were revoked -- reinforces the former argument.



ICONIc

It is one Hodgson, whose own knowledge of the European game and Sweden in particular is vast, tends to agree with.

"He is an iconic figure in Sweden, where they are very much in awe of him," said Hodgson. "His career record is quite incredible.

"Maybe on one or two of the times he has come to England he had not succeeded when he has been built up to.

"But I have seen quite a lot of him over the years -- first of all in 2000 the year after Malmo had been relegated for the only time in their history.

"Twelve years ago, as a fairly young precocious talent, he made sure they got straight back up again

"I thought he was going to be something special then and of course everything he has done since then has proved it."

The key, according to Hodgson, is to hope Ibrahimovic produces one of his more sluggish performances.

"At international level your opponents do tend to have someone special," he said.

"Sometimes it is a question of the special players making sure they can produce it on the night.

"If someone has great talent it will always be there and will surface eventually.

"As a coach you are hoping it happens on an occasion when it is important for you."

England would do well to be wary, if only because history is against them.

Seven times the sides have met in competitive action. The Three Lions are still awaiting their first victory and on a number of occasions they were selecting from squads substantially stronger than the one Hodgson has at his disposal.

Funnily enough, he is part of the problem as, along with coaching mentor Bob Houghton, Hodgson was responsible for introducing a more defensively disciplined approach to the Swedish game.

Throw in the Premier League's popularity of the English game in Sweden --228 matches per season are broadcast live, 74 more than the mammoth £3billion UK deal that was announced yesterday -- and it is little wonder they prove such obdurate opponents.

"I would be surprised if teams weren't taking England seriously," said Hodgson.



FAMOUS

"We will never be taken lightly, not least because of the quality of the Premier League and the famous names in there.

"To some extent we run the risk of a country like Sweden, who spend a lot of their time watching the Premier League, getting extra motivation to beat us.

"Because they like to show these highly paid superstars are no better than their own players."

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