England manager Roy Hodgson plays down concerns over Moldova pitch

 

England manager Roy Hodgson insists he has no concerns over the state of the pitch for tomorrow's opening World Cup qualifier against Moldova in Chisinau.

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 told a press conference.

"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."

Hodgson confirmed that his squad had not suffered any further injury concerns, after Sunderland winger Adam Johnson yesterday joined the likes of Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll on the sidelines with a thigh problem.

"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.

England are the overwhelming favourites for tomorrow's Group H game, but the former Fulham, Liverpool and West Brom boss insists his focus is on getting three points rather than scoring a hatful.

"At the moment goal difference doesn't come into it," he said. "At the moment it's important to try and get points on the board and try and get off to a good start.

"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."

England may face a massed Moldovan defence but captain Steven Gerrard is confident experience in the Barclays Premier League will prepare England's players to break them down.

"It can be difficult," he said.

"But the good thing is that in our squad we've got players who are used to that in the Premier League - we play for top teams and you come up against teams that put 11 men behind the ball.

"As long as we're patient and don't force the issue, it doesn't matter when we score or how we win - as long as we do."

Gerrard called on his side to get their campaign off to a winning start against first Moldova and then Ukraine, saying: "It breeds confidence for the team and the squad.

"The idea this week is to get six points but it's important to focus on Moldova first."

The Liverpool player is joined among Hodgson's midfield options by Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, who have both been recalled after sitting out the European Championship.

Lampard's pedigree is well known, with 23 goals in 91 caps, and Gerrard is also glad to welcome back Manchester United's Carrick.

"Michael is a quality player, I've played with him in a few England games," he said.

"It's great to have him back available, he'll certainly make the team and the squad stronger."

 

 

PA

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