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Jun 13, 2014

Hodgson draws inspiration from Pele

England manager Roy Hodgson has told his young players they can light up the World Cup just like Pele did 56 years ago.

- Brewin: Heat is on as England land in Manaus
- Cox: Heat and Pirlo will stifle England
England v Italy: 50-50 Challenge
Hodgson calls on Rooney to step up

Hodgson's youthful-looking side take on four-time world champions Italy in their opening Group D match in Manaus on Saturday.

Just three of the expected England starting XI have played at a World Cup before, but the 66-year-old sees that as a help, rather than a hindrance.

Hodgson feels the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley can draw inspiration from Pele's performances in 1958, when he fired Brazil to their first World Cup at the age of just 17.

"I'm not afraid of giving youth a chance," he said. "We've only to think back to 1958 and Pele bursting on to the scene as a 17-year-old. He went on to dominate football and become one of the most, if not the most, famous footballers of all time.

"When he came to Sweden in 1958 he wasn't even well-known in Brazil. A month later he's a superstar and went on to be an even greater superstar.

"You've seen plenty of examples in the World Cup -- [Diego] Maradona was very young when he first started playing for Argentina, Johan Cruyff was another one when he was dominating European football for Netherlands. And [Franz] Beckenbauer was a young man when England lost in 1970."

When England were knocked out of Euro 2012 at the quarterfinal stage by Italy, they were on the back foot for the majority of the match.

However, Hodgson thinks the Three Lions will be able to dictate more of the play this time around.

He said: "I'd like to think we'll be keeping the ball with that positivity in mind so that when the opportunity comes to unleash some of the talent we've got, some of the players who are good at running with the ball, running behind defenders without the ball, we'll unleash them and put the ball into those areas because we need to score goals.

"I don't fear that it will be anything like the game that took place in Kiev [in Euro 2012]. That was two years ago, it's history. Then we were in very, very different circumstances to now. I've got every confidence in the team and really do believe we will play well.''

Other than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered a medial knee ligament injury in Miami last week, Hodgson has a full squad to choose from -- Danny Welbeck is expected to be available after recovering from a groin "niggle."

And the England boss admits he will find it difficult to inform those players he has left out of his starting lineup for Saturday.

"I think it has been one of my toughest team selections,'' Hodgson said. "There's a lot of people really showing that they've got the form and the quality we're looking for. When I actually name the XI there will be some disappointed people.''

Hodgson believes his team are capable of getting out of the group stage and going far in the tournament, but said: "What we want from back home is support, encouragement, for people to believe. If it doesn't go that well for us, it's not for any other reasons than it didn't happen for us on the night."

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