Roy Hodgson handed twin Arsenal boost as England squad fly out to Portugal


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The Independent Football

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere will be fit and ready to travel to Portugal today with the England squad, the players confirmed after Saturday’s FA Cup final, which is good news for manager Roy Hodgson.

The England World Cup squad meet for the first time today at St George’s Park near Burton-on-Trent and leave for their training week in Vale Do Lobo, the first part of Hodgson’s tournament preparations, with injury concerns over the Arsenal pair allayed. There are still major worries about Phil Jones’ fitness to feature in the tournament.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has not played since 20 April but was close to being selected, Arsène Wenger confirmed, for Saturday’s FA Cup final win over Hull. The Arsenal manager said: “He was desperate to play. Pain-wise, he could have played. I judged him short physically and I felt that, in the game, I wanted to play the players who were completely fit and prepared.

“They said to me he can play 20 or 30 minutes but you cannot programme it like that. That’s why I left him out. He is on the way up but he needs more fitness work now. He is OK for England. It was a  difficult decision to leave him out.”

Wilshere made his second substitute appearance since he broke a navicular bone in his left foot playing for England against Denmark on 5 March. The midfielder said later that he had been in training for the last three weeks but had been held back by Wenger until he built up his strength.

Wilshere said: “I haven’t been in the squad [before the final day of the league season] because we agreed with the manager that it was right that I got a good base fitness. I have been in the last two squads and I have played 45 minutes altogether. I feel fresh and a good week of training in Portugal will do me good.”

Hodgson said that the preparations in Portugal would be tailored to each individual’s needs, with no prospect of the hard running that the squad went through in Austria with Fabio Capello in the build-up to the tournament in South Africa four years ago. Hodgson said: “All of us are going to Brazil with one burning ambition. We’ve worked hard to get there and want to come home with people saying ‘well done’. But there’s only one way for that to happen, by preparing properly, competing in the best shape and getting our minds right.

 “That doesn’t mean locking people up in their rooms or making them go through four-hour meetings. They’re human beings and we want them to perform as well as they can perform.”

Asked whether England could win the World Cup, he said: “I’m not ruling it out. It would be foolish to go there thinking we can’t win it or we’re only there to make up the numbers. Of course we’ll go there thinking of winning it, believing it and working hard to do that. The truth comes when you cross that white line and have 90 minutes to win a game. That’s when the truth comes out.

“Can we play well enough? We have the hope, dream and ambition. But to do well, we have to play well, play better than the opponents, for all the players to live up to their reputations. They deserve those big reputations. It’s up to them to live up to them and up to us as a coaching team to ensure they’re capable of doing that.”

Danny Welbeck has been on a daily training programme while in Dubai with his family and friends this week. It is also understood that Frank Lampard has stayed in Britain to train.