Harry Redknapp yesterday hit back at press criticism of Roy Hodgson's England for their efforts at Euro 2012. However, the former Tottenham Hotspur manager accepted the national team must raise their game if they are to make progress.
England were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of another major tournament when they lost 4-2 on penalties to Italy, after a 0-0 draw, on Sunday night. However, just to have made the latter stages of the competition was an achievement in itself, given Hodgson only took on the job five weeks before the start of the tournament.
Redknapp, who at one stage had looked set for the England job, said: "It is unbelievable. We keep underestimating our players. I don't care what anybody says, we have got good players.
"Our back four and goalkeeper will be as good as any back four and goalkeeper in the tournament, man for man. You know, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Joe Hart in goal, John Terry. Joleon Lescott had an excellent tournament. You've got Steven Gerrard, you had Scott Parker, you've got Wayne Rooney coming back.
"No one's blaming Roy or anyone else, that's for sure. He's just took over, he's going to have to get his own style of play, but we've got to start playing some football haven't we?"
Redknapp conceded England need to improve aspects of their game, having faded badly in the second half against the Italians, when they were chasing possession for large spells.
"We can't keep giving the ball away in international football and expect to win games," said Redknapp. "Our possession was less than any team in the tournament I think, apart from the Irish. That can't be right. It's not as if we can't pass the ball."
Hodgson also received backing from his Germany counterpart, Joachim Löw. For the fourth major tournament running, the Germans have reached the semi-final stage and, by contrast, England have not reached the last four of any tournament since Euro '96 when they lost to Germany on penalties at Wembley.
Löw does not have a magic wand, but after being directly responsible for England's elimination from the last World Cup, when Germany won a second-round match 4-1 in Bloemfontein, he has detected a significant improvement under Hodgson, which he is certain will continue.
"The English were much better in this tournament than in 2010," he said. "When they played us then they were a team who had a lot of problems. Roy Hodgson has brought order into the side and has done a great job.
"[At Euro 2012] they were a very well-organised team. England will develop under him in the next few years and, in the next tournament, they'll play a better role than they did here and certainly than they did in 2010."
Löw's comments are a slap in the face for Hodgson's predecessor, Capello, who has been making waves of his own this week, hinting that Wayne Rooney only performs well for Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. That comment has irritated Hodgson, who accused Capello of a "cheap" trick.
"Capello is entitled to his opinions, I suppose, but I always think it's a bit cheap to kid on a player who was so anxious to do well," Hodgson said.
Questions have been asked about Rooney's conduct prior to the tournament, particularly a very public holiday in Las Vegas with former Red Devils team-mate Wes Brown. Hodgson has already dismissed this and defended his decision to give Rooney an extra week off in the build-up, which meant he missed the friendly win in Norway.
That move could now be interpreted as a mistake given the forward looked so short of match fitness when he eventually returned against Ukraine.
Hodgson is having none of it though, and has revealed he stopped Rooney pushing himself too hard at England's Krakow training base when the United man wanted to do additional work.
"His attitude was magnificent," said Hodgson. "He was putting in extra work because he was concerned he was behind the others having missed the first two games through suspension. His desire to do well was enormous and we were trying to put the brakes on.
"In the final game he, along with one or two other players, didn't play to the level he can but that's what football is about.
"If every player was a robot and played at the same level in every game then football would be very simple and we wouldn't need coaches."
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