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Sep 6, 2012

Hodgson wants quick start in Chisinau

Roy Hodgson has confirmed that he has no more injury concerns ahead of what the England manager expects will be a tough opening World Cup qualifier against Moldova.

• Johnson suffers injury setback
• Randall: England, my England - but only up to a point

Left-back Ashley Cole and winger Adam Johnson have both withdrawn from an England squad that was already missing injured strike duo Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll.

But Hodgson, who stepped in to replace Fabio Capello at Euro 2012 and takes charge of his first international qualifier in Chisinau on Friday night, wants a quick, positive start from his depleted squad.

"It's a blow to lose players but we chose a large squad fortunately, so I'm still happy with the players that remain with us and we certainly have more than the 11 we'll pick to play the game,'' said Hodgson.

"The most important thing is to get points on the board. We want to get off to a good start in this qualifying campaign."

Moldova are expected to pack the defence and midfield against England, something they did to great effect against the Netherlands during their qualifying campaign for Euro 2012.

"They are going to be very well organised, very disciplined in defence. We're aware that they are - from the games we've studied - a team that's capable of playing very well and causing some problems. We're not going to underestimate them.''

Hodgson added: "If they can hold Holland on two occasions to a 1-0 victory then what we need to try and do is get an early goal."

Moldova assistant manager Ion Testemitanu this week admitted the playing surface at the 10,400-capacity Zimbru stadium was not in the best condition, but Hodgson has called on his charges to perform whatever the circumstances.

"We haven't seen the pitch yet and quite frankly we haven't spoken about it,'' Hodgson said. "I'm pretty sure that I have a very experienced group of players and they'll have played on many pitches, and I really don't envisage any particular problems there.

"It's up to us to deal with whatever playing surface we play on. I'm pretty sure the Moldovan national team want to play on the best possible surface they can.''

England skipper Steven Gerrard joined his manager in the press conference, and expressed his delight at the return of Michael Carrick to the England setup. Carrick and Frank Lampard have both been called in to boost options in the centre of the field.

"Michael is a quality player, I've played with him in a few England games," Gerrard said. "It's great to have him back available, he'll certainly make the team and the squad stronger."

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