The England manager Roy Hodgson declared last night that his side could not have been more prepared for tonight's opening European Championship match with France, despite his mere 40 days in charge, and said his own belief in the players has surprised him.
Hodgson, who is likely to set the pace of Manchester United's Danny Welbeck, below, rather than Andy Carroll, bottom, against a French central defence which lacks mobility, called on his players to put behind them the negativity of a build-up in which this England squad have been portrayed as the weakest in generations.
"It's been 40 days," Hodgson said. "But I'm really quite surprised that I'm as confident of what the players are going to show you and show the nation and do for the nation as I can possibly be, and I can't say more than that.
"To the players my message is going to be that 'We've done the best preparation in my opinion that we can possibly do, I think you're ready, I think you're good enough, now have the confidence and the belief in yourself to get out there and show it and don't get suicidal if for some reason things don't work out for you'."
England's players, who were told the starting XI last night after watching a fifth DVD of the French side, will play in early-evening temperatures here which are expected to approach 32C and will also be equipped with repellent sprays to deal with the midges which are another part of the climate in a city where Laurent Blanc's side have been acclimatising for five days.
They will be encouraged to spray their hair and skin to stave off bites. "We'll deal with the heat as best we can," Hodgson said. "It does get hot in England from time to time. The heat is a factor for all the teams playing in the Ukraine.
Hodgson can call on John Terry and Ashley Cole despite fitness concerns. "I think [Terry] feels this is a great opportunity to show the very best of what he can do," he said.Reuse content