Hodgson: More to Italy than Pirlo

The Three Lions coach insists he will not only focus on "top class" playmaker and delivers assurances over captain Steven Gerrard's fitness ahead of World Cup opener in Manaus
By Greg Stobart in Rio de Janeiro

England manager Roy Hodgson insists his side will not get "hung up" on the threat of Andrea Pirlo despite the Italy midfielder’s "top class" ability.

The Three Lions open their World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus on Saturday in a repeat of the Euro 2012 quarter-final, when Pirlo was the man-of-the-match as the Azzurri triumphed on penalties in Kiev.

“Andrea is someone I know very well and he is obviously a top, top class player,” Hodgson said in a press conference at England’s training base in Rio de Janeiro.

“I think it’s quite normal that people focus on him but there are a lot of other players in that Italy team that are worthy of contention too.

“We are focussing on Italy the team and the quality they have. We are not getting hung up on one player because Prandelli will tell you that his team are not totally dependent on Pirlo, even though I’m sure he thinks he’s as good a player as I do.”

Hodgson also insisted that his captain Steven Gerrard will be fully fit to play against Italy despite leaving training early on Monday with an apparent groin problem.

Midfielder Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain is making steady progress as he recovers from a knee injury and could be fit to take part in England’s second game of the tournament against Uruguay on June 19.

Hodgson added: “I don’t really understand the Steven Gerrard one – I don’t know what was wrong with him. He did some extra running and there is absolutely nothing wrong with him.

“Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be stepping up his training programme during the course of the week. The medics are hopeful he will be fit by the second game [against Uruguay].”