Roy Hodgson’s England squad travelled to Portugal on Monday to begin their World Cup preparations with their manager stressing the importance of the team spirit within the group if they are to achieve anything in Brazil next month.
Phil Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both still recovering from injury, were included in the party who will train in Vale Do Lobo this week. They return on Friday for a weekend with their families before moving to St George’s Park on Monday.
Hodgson said the mentality of the group would be crucial. “One thing is for certain: there’s no chance for any team in the World Cup if they’re not in it together,” he said. “We’ve seen that in the past, examples where teams who were not together, like France in the last one where all the problems were coming out.
“If you want to win any tournament, if you want to win a league for that matter, you’d better make certain that you, as a team, are all together. That you’re all singing off the same hymn-sheet, that you all have the same aspirations and that you’re all prepared to make sacrifices for each other.”
Hodgson added: “It’s not rocket science, it’s truisms. But it’s as much of a truism as the fact games hinge on a single moment of hazard of the ball hitting the post and going in or going out. We all know those things. You don’t have a chance to control those hazardous moments, Steven Gerrard letting the ball run under his foot and slipping. It won’t happen all that often but when it happens, it happens.
“But the thing you can control is your team-work, making sure you choose a group of players who are prepared to work as a team, that you deal with any problems that come up from individuals that are trying to eat away at the fabric of your team and maybe destroy your team-work.
“I’ve always been very clear on that. I don’t have any hesitation. When you stand in front of a group of players for the first time and say ‘Listen, the only way we’re going to win this is by being a team’, you’ll find 20 of them will say ‘Yeah, yeah, you’re right’.
“But then, if they don’t start doing it as a team in the course of the tournament, you’re quite entitled to say ‘You didn’t fucking say anything about it before, you were the first to say you agreed, and now you’re out of the team it’s a big problem, it’s not about the team any more, it’s all about you’.
“I’ve never been afraid to say those things. But luckily I’ve not had to say it too often.”