Roy Hodgson has rejected Gary Lineker's claim that England's tactics against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night were a "step back to the dark ages" for their adherence to what looked like a 4-4-2 system.
The England manager has resolutely refused to be drawn on what system he favours, claiming that he works to the principle that needs his best players on the pitch. Lineker tweeted after the 1-1 draw at Wembley that the performance was a regression after what he regarded as recent improvements.
The former England striker wrote: "Even though results haven't been great, felt tactically England were maturing, but this is a step back to the dark ages of 2 lines of 4". Later he tweeted: "It's not about playing in straight lines, it's about playing between the lines. Depth gives flexibility, passing alternatives, creativity". When Lineker's criticisms were put to Hodgson he said he was surprised. "Did he?" Hodgson said. "Oh well, that's a pity. I thought we played well." Pressed on the specifics of Lineker's criticism, Hodgson said "What is the dark ages?" before a Football Association official interjected to say that the organisation did not wish to get into a tit-for-tat dispute with the broadcaster.
Hodgson also addressed the point made in his earlier post-match press conference that he believed England's 4-4-2 style bore comparisons with that of Borussia Dortmund, the defeated Champions League finalists. He said that the similarity came from his insistence that one of the two strikers dropped deep to support the midfield when England lost the ball, "just like Borussia Dortmund did and did very well in the final. Just like we've done in the past".
He said: "I saw a lot of things that gave me a lot of heart in the performance. If we can continue along those lines, we still have a few players to come back into the team of quality, who can push us forward even more. I didn't go away from the game disappointed with what I saw and I'm certainly not prepared to discuss what systems are modern and what systems aren't. Borussia Dortmund, in the games they played, adopted a very similar way of playing to the one we tried to play.
"I don't know that our system has changed that much throughout. The principles we work on certainly don't change. As far as I'm concerned I thought our attacking play, especially in the second half, was actually quite good. All that was missing was the icing on the cake of a second goal."
Later, he added: "I'm just talking 4-4-2s, actually. I'm not comparing us to any team. I don't think we play like Borussia Dortmund. We play like England. We play to the principles that we work on in the training session.
"As opposed to the last performance [the draw with Montenegro] when I was less satisfied, I went away thinking that the way we attacked, passed the ball and moved, and attempted to get in behind the opponents, was the right way to do it and our defending was very solid.
"We won the ball back very quickly, our players tracked back pretty well and while we played two front players we didn't get outnumbered in midfield at all, we had the numbers in there due to the fact that Wayne Rooney and the others up there tracked back."
The England players flew to Brazil at 2am after the game and arrived this afternoon in Rio de Janeiro.
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