• World Cup

Hodgson: 'Exceptional' Sterling could start

ESPN staff
June 7, 2014
Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer backs England to reach the World Cup semi-finals

Roy Hodgson has dropped his biggest hint that Raheem Sterling will be part of his starting line-up when England kick off their World Cup campaign on June 14.

Sterling was sent off against Ecuador on Wednesday and will sit out of Saturday's final warm-up friendly against Honduras in Miami.

But Hodgson has backed the Liverpool winger to bounce back and play a starring role in Brazil.

England to wait on Ox

Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered knee ligament damage in the friendly with Ecuador © Getty Images
  • Roy Hodgson is prepared to wait until the "last moment" on whether to include the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in England's World Cup squad.
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"He's good enough to face Italy," Hodgson said of the 19-year-old Sterling. "He's going to cause a lot of teams some serious damage. He really is an exceptional player."

Hodgson, who described Sterling's tackle on Ecuador counterpart Antonio Valencia as "reckless", also praised the player for how he has handled himself since the red card.

Speaking at England's training session at Barry University, he added: "He was absolutely gutted to be sent off, as were we, but he doesn't seem to have taken it to heart.

"The most important thing is he's still making me aware he's a player who can inflict an awful lot of damage on the opposition.

"His reaction to the red card has been excellent. He was unstoppable at times in training, some of the things he did out there were breathtaking and he's not going to lose any fitness.

"The dilemma I have is that I have more than 11 players capable of taking the field against Italy but I don't need to see a performance from Raheem on the field to know he's capable of playing in the Italy game if selected.

"He is an exceptional talent - along with our other exceptional talents - and what happened on Wednesday wouldn't stop me. We've spoken about it. It happened. The blow is he can't play against Honduras when I'd like to have seen him play.

"But I don't think it was an ill-disciplined act. It was over-exuberant and slightly reckless. It was his desire to help us out of a difficult situation, using his incredible pace to track back and stop Antonio Valencia. It was a reckless challenge and the referee was entitled to send him off.

"That was a blow to my plans but it doesn't affect his chances of playing when the tournament starts."

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