Hodgson: Young squad can succeed
LUTON -- Roy Hodgson believes England are capable of winning the World Cup this summer and insists giving youth a chance in his 23-man squad will not undermine his side's ambitions.
Hodgson has left out experienced performers such as Ashley Cole, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe in favour of up-and-coming stars including Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling for his first World Cup with the Three Lions.
England have been drawn in a difficult-looking group alongside Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica but, while the selection appears to have been made with one eye on the future, Hodgson maintained they could still spring a shock this summer.
"Yes, of course, I believe this squad can win the World Cup," Hodgson said. "There is no point in going unless we have some belief they can win it. However, they are empty words and I never quite understand the importance people attach to that statement. I'm sure the managers of Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany, Italy and the rest say the same.
"If we are going to win it, we will have to play very well. We will have to prepare well and, if we are going to win this, this talented group of players will have to perform. There is a mood of positivity in the country and we are going to try and feed on that and make sure we do not let people down."
Hodgson faced a host of questions about the relative inexperience of the squad, but he stressed that he had every faith in those he has selected.
"We shouldn't get hung up on the fact that there are some youngsters in the squad," he said. "They are there because I believe they deserve to be there and because I feel they are capable of performing well. I'm not taking anyone purely for the experience.
"In that 23, there is an awful lot of caps. It would not surprise me that when we put a team on the field and the XI have been selected, if we add the caps up, I'd pretty much bet we'd be up there with all the other teams.
"It would not be right to focus on this squad as being young and lacking in experience because we have enough players with experience. Glen Johnson, [Gary] Cahill, [Phil] Jagielka, [Leighton] Baines, [Joe] Hart, [Steven] Gerrard, [Wayne] Rooney -- all of these players have plenty of caps between them.
"How do you get experience? You get experience by being given the opportunity. We are aware that in this group, we have lot of players who have not played 50-plus games, but I still think the balance in the group is quite good.
"Everyone is inexperienced until he gets the chance to show he can do the job and the players I have picked have imposed themselves upon me. They have played so well, done so well and been so effective in their club teams that they have imposed themselves and their ability on my thinking."
Hodgson said his plans for the squad had altered since securing qualification for Brazil last year as he was keen to pick players who have showed good form in the second half of the Premier League season.
"I'm sure if I had picked a squad in October, after the last two qualifiers, it might have looked different to this," he said. "A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. Your decision is affected by what is happening at the time.
"In October, I'm not sure Raheem Sterling was getting the game time or having the impact he has had in the last four months or so [at Liverpool]. These players deserve credit for making sure the England manager cannot ignore them."