England must pass the ball better and keep possession if they are to compete with European heavyweights such as Spain, Germany and Italy, manager Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday.
As they have done so many times in major tournaments, England flattered to deceive at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, losing on penalties against Italy in the quarter-finals after being largely outplayed for most of the game.
“There is no doubt that a key to being a successful team lies in your ability to pass the ball and support each other,” Hodgson, who is attending a UEFA conference in Poland for national team coaches, told the Football Association’s Web site. “Passing and support for me have always been a key element to a winning team, and this is an area of play that I’d like to think during my time as England manager we will improve.”
While previous disappointments at tournaments have been greeted with criticism, Hodgson was given an easier ride by the English media as he was only appointed in May as a replacement for Fabio Capello, who quit three months earlier.
England’s 2-1 victory over Italy in a friendly last month followed by a 5-0 win away to Moldova in their opening World Cup qualifier offered a glimpse of a brighter future, but a 1-1 home draw against Ukraine saw their old failings surface again.
“The England coaching staff and I know what happened in the Euros very well, and have considered many of the points and analysis already,” the much-traveled Hodgson said.
“The report sums up much of what we knew and experienced out in Ukraine and Poland. We can’t ignore the trends and it was very interesting to hear what semi-final coaches had to say about possession. England must maintain possession of the ball better, and we have to work hard at international and club level. We know this,” Hodgson said.
“England must show that we are capable of seizing the initiative and dominating games in tournaments, rather than holding out against opponents and hitting on the counterattack,” he said. “In the quarter-final against Italy it was never our intention to sit back, but perhaps fatigue set in.”
On reflection, Hodgson said England did about as well as could be expected at Euro 2012.
“Don’t forget we went into the tournament without several key midfielders due to injuries and therefore had a lack of experienced international players on the bench in that match,” he said. “So I think we showed good quality to sustain the level of play as long as we did.”