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May 29, 2014

Roy Hodgson backs England strike duo

The ESPN FC team discuss Paul Scholes' comments regarding his thoughts on what England must do to go far in Brazil.

WATFORD -- England manager Roy Hodgson is convinced the striker partnership of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge can thrive at the World Cup this summer, even though the duo have rarely played together for a sustained period on the international stage.

Jolly: Rooney can't afford another failure
Cross: Sturridge confidence a boost

United striker Rooney and Liverpool hit-man Sturridge look certain to be Hodgson's first-choice strike partnership in Brazil, yet the pair have started just three of England's eight internationals this season.

"I don't think we have had the opportunity to see the two of them as many times as we would like because quite often one or the other has been injured," Hodgson told the assembled media at The Grove hotel ahead of Friday's game against Peru at Wembley.

"We are talking about two excellent players, two first-class players. I've always been of the belief that when you have two first-class players who don't have any particular weaknesses, there is never any reason why they can't play together.

"Sometimes I think we complicate matters by saying two good players can't play together because they have some similarities, but I've never subscribed to that theory."

Hodgson said Rooney has recovered well from a thigh injury that plagued his final weeks of the Premier League season.

"I'm very pleased with Wayne Rooney's fitness levels," Hodgson said. "Wayne missed a couple of matches at the end of the season, but he came to us very fit have put in some extra work in the week's holiday that I wanted all the players to take. He worked very hard there because from the first moment, he has looked very fit and lively."

England captain Steven Gerrard attended the press conference in Watford and smiled when quizzed on the potential pairing of Rooney and Sturridge, as he recalled the persistent jibes that his midfield partnership with Chelsea's Frank Lampard did not work for England for many years.

"Gerrard and Lampard ... I'm bored of that question," said a less-than-engaged England skipper. "I've said it on record many times that good players can play together.

"Good players need to be able to adapt and take on the tactics that the manager wants. We don't want a team full of individuals who are going to try and do this alone. The only way we are going to be successful as a team is if combinations work and they take on the tactics of the manager."

Gerrard went on to fend off suggestions that Hodgson's England side should play a style of football to match the free-flowing panache displayed by the Liverpool team he led to second place in the Premier League last season.

"It makes me proud and happy that opinion of the Liverpool team and the players that I'm playing alongside is very good and positive," added Gerrard, as he again refused to comment on his international future beyond the World Cup. "That's something that we as a club can build on for next season, but what people need to understand that this is England.

"This is a group of players that has been selected from throughout the Premier League and we are going to play the Roy Hodgson way and the England way. Hopefully that's a successful way."

Hodgson confirmed that he has a fully fit squad ahead of the Peru game, but he admitted his focus on the final friendly his side will play on home soil is not his priority.

"It's a little bit strange for us this game," he stated. "We have done so much work on what we want to establish to make sure that when we go to Miami next week, when the real countdown to our games in Brazil will begin, that this game has come at us from nowhere.

"Normally with an England team, you talk about an opponent, you talk about how you want to play against a particular opponent, but I must admit that on this occasion, our focus has been on June 14," when England play their first game of the World Cup against Italy.

"I must say that it is a game we are going to take very seriously because I'm pleased to hear there is going to be another big crowd there and we are desperate to leave England having left a good impression behind for our own fans."

Luke Shaw is the only fitness doubt for the Peru match on Friday, with the Southampton full-back suffering from a mild cold.

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