`Bring on Italy' says Hoddle

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The Independent Online
At the end of what England's coach Glenn Hoddle acknowledged was an emotional evening, the feeling in the dressing room had altered to one of eager anticipation.

England's moral rising victory, coupled with Italy's relative failure in Georgia had engendered a feeling which Hoddle characterised deftly: "Bring on Italy."

Not that Hoddle was casting his normal caution aside. He acknowledged that the decisive match in Rome on 11 October, from which England need a draw to qualify as group winners, would be "a massive game".

Nevertheless, you could see the strategy he is likely to employ with his players over the next three weeks forming. "Psychologically the pressure now in Rome will be on the Italians," Hoddle said. "Most people, probably ourselves included, expected that we would have to go out there and win. I still feel we are capable of doing that."

Hoddle fears that his players might be affected by the tributes paid to the late Princess of Wales centred on the minutes silence before the game. "That was always going to be the hardest part," he said. "That was where it was going to hit the players. I have never heard a minutes silence observed with so much respect. But the players all responded professionally and they gave a great performance tonight."

He was happy to praise the contribution of Gascoigne, who showed his old insouciance as well as taking a beautifully contrived goal. But Hoddle, for whom motivation of this key player is an important part of the job, hinted that the Rangers midfielder could become more effective still. "If he can keep injury free, for four to five weeks perhaps, his fitness levels are going to get even better. With the ball tonight he was as good as he's been for a long long time."

Gascoigne himself endorsed that appraisal. "It was one of my best games for England," he said "I really enjoyed."

Gascoigne's attitude to the forthcoming game in Italy was characteristically direct "We have to go out there and look to win," he said. "If we go there for a draw we will get beaten, we can't afford to slip up."

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