Juventus the dream draw for Hodgson

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The Independent Online

Roy Hodgson set his sights on a return to Italy after Fulham qualified for the knock-out stages of the Europa League with a well-deserved 3-2 victory over FC Basle last night.

Fulham join group winners Roma plus the likes of Champions League drop-outs Juventus, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid in the last 32 of the tournament.

The draw is made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon at midday tomorrow and Fulham cannot meet Liverpool or Everton, who are in action against BATE Borisov tonight but have already qualified for the round of 32.

But Hodgson, the former Inter Milan manager, has his eye on one potential tie in particular.

"I wouldn't mind playing Juventus," he said after a first-half double from Bobby Zamora and a Zoltan Gera strike had set Fulham on their way to victory.

"I am looking forward to the next round, the draw to see who we get and then we see how far we can go."

Hodgson has treated the Europa League as an "adventure" for the Fulham supporters but he has always placed the Barclays Premier League as his priority.

That attitude is unlikely to change, particularly when the rotation policy Fulham are using allows the likes of Bjorn Helge Riise and Gera to shine the way they did against Basle.

"I don't know whether I am enthusiastic (now we have qualified), I am very satisfied. I am particularly pleased for the fans," Hodgson continued.

"I walked around Basle in the afternoon before the game and I was stopped by fans saying how much they were enjoying the adventure.

"We have done more than we set out to do. It's been a bonus so far and now we face an even bigger bonus."

Zamora ran the Basle defence ragged all evening before he was substituted to a standing ovation from the 1200 travelling fans who braved temperatures which plummeted below minus five degrees.

After seeing his 15th-minute strike chalked off for a narrow offside decision, Zamora latched onto an insightful cross from Riise to put Fulham ahead four minutes before the interval.

Three minutes later the pair combined again with Zamora rising at the far post to head his second, having initially sent Riise clear down the right.

Zamora, the much-maligned striker, has now scored four in his last three games and nine this season to answer his critics.

"Bobby Zamora carried on from where he left off in the Premier League," said Hodgson.

"I thought he was very unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside, and he was a real thorn in the flesh of the Basle defence.

"He's got to be delighted with his performance. The one criticism of him has been that he hasn't scored enough goals - but nine goals so far this season is a pretty good return for any forward.

"We were good value tonight for the goals we scored and we could have scored more."

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