Hoddle and England grow and prosper

INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL: Brazilian defeat cannot mask the potential as coach counts up the plusses. Glenn Moore reports
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The Independent Online
Glenn Hoddle's first year as England coach ended, just as Terry Venables' debut season had, with defeat by Brazil. It was no disgrace, Brazil are the best around and, in the Parc des Princes on Tuesday night, there were times when England looked worthy opponents just as they had in the opening half at Wembley two summers ago.

Venables' team progressed considerably over the following year and went on to be within a penalty kick of the European Championship final. Hoddle, in building on Venables' progress, has created a side of greater potential but he faces a harder task. As well as the traditional European powers France '98 will have Brazil, probably Argentina, and the emerging force of Nigeria. England will also be away.

First, as Hoddle has always been anxious to stress, England have to qualify. "We are talking as if we are already there," he cautioned as England's efforts were dissected.

In his 11 games (nine wins, defeats by Italy and Brazil) Hoddle has called up 45 players, capping 29 of them, five (David Beckham, Andy Hinchcliffe, David James, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes) for the first time. Paul Ince and Gareth Southgate have appeared in 10 matches, no one has been ever- present. Darren Anderton, Steve Stone and Steve Howey have been unavailable almost all season and 11 of those he has picked were injured for the Tournoi de France.

In their absence others have seized their chance, notably Scholes, Phil Neville, Rob Lee and, to an extent, Ian Wright. The Liverpool pair of Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler will be wondering if they will pay for their absence.

Scholes and Phil Neville have been, with Sol Campbell, the major plusses of the Tournoi. "Scholes showed a lot of maturity while Phil Neville created and defended well playing in an unfamiliar wing-back position," Hoddle said. He added: "They have a great temperament and have adapted well to international football. Sol has grown as a player and he will get even better."

Gary Neville also did well, only looking uncomfortable when faced with Christophe Dugarry's height, while David Beckham continued his progress and will have learned much in terms of play and behaviour.

Then there was Ince, probably the outstanding player of England's recent five-match period. "You do not realise what a player he is until you do not have him," Hoddle said. "There is not a player like him anywhere. He can drive forward and he can defend. Everyone has gone up a level but he has progressed even more."

Alan Shearer and David Seaman underlined their quality while Paul Gascoigne showed signs of his. "I was pleased with him," Hoddle added. "There were signs he is getting back to his best. He is not yet 100 per cent fit and he needs three to four injury-free months. He is maturing and can give you stature at the right time."

Hoddle recognised that England have to improve on the ball defensively and will be concerned about the lack of cover for Ince - David Batty is very much a poor substitute - and the continued absence of a natural sweeper.

Assuming England overcome Moldova at Wembley in September, qualification would be guaranteed by an October victory in Rome. A draw ought to be good enough as the best-performing second-placed team of the nine groups. England may even manage that in defeat but it would require some bad results by the likes of Yugoslavia, Belgium and whoever is second in Scotland's group. "The bottom line is qualifying - and then trying to win it. I know that," Hoddle said.

"The job looked worse on the outside, when I was at Chelsea. It looked a hell of a difficult job. It is, but I enjoy it and am taking a lot of pride in it. The ups are very high and the downs very low. I have a good family behind me and that is the most important thing. Winning in Poland was a great high, it may not be the best thing I've done - taking Swindon into the Premiership was a fantastic achievement at the time - but this is the nation. It means so much to so many people."

ENGLAND'S RECORD UNDER HODDLE

01.09.96 Moldova 3-0

(at Chisinau; scorers: Barmby, Gascoigne, Shearer)

09.10.96 Poland 2-1

(at Wembley; Shearer 2)

09.11.96 Georgia 2-0

(at Tbilisi; Sheringham, Ferdinand)

12.02.97 Italy 0-1

(at Wembley)

29.03.97 Mexico 2-0

(at Wembley; Sheringham pen, Fowler)

30.04.97 Georgia 2-0

(at Wembley; Sheringham, Shearer)

24.05.97 South Africa 2-1

(at Old Trafford; Lee, Wright)

31.05.97 Poland 2-0

(Chorzow; Shearer, Sheringham)

04.06.97 Italy 2-0

(at Nantes; Scholes, Wright)

07.06.97 France 1-0

(at Montpellier, Shearer)

10.06.97 Brazil 0-1

(at Paris)

P W D L F A

Home 5 4 0 1 8 3

Away 6 5 0 1 10 1

Total 11 9 0 2 18 4

England's all-time record

P W D L F A

736 420 174 142 1701 769

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