England manager Roy Hodgson said on Sunday he would have liked Monday’s opening European Championship Group E fixture away to Switzerland, the team he was once in charge of, to have come later in the qualifying programme.
The air of negativity surrounding England after a poor World Cup in June, when they took only one point from three games, was not dispelled by defeating Norway 1-0 in a friendly on Wednesday.
While captain Wayne Rooney said the players were looking forward to “a nice game to play in”, Hodgson told the same news conference in Basel: “In an ideal world we would have chosen to play Switzerland, who on paper are certainly the major rival for the number one spot in the group, later on.
“We would have liked to have had a bit more time with this group of players to see how we can form them into the team we have in our head.”
Switzerland, coached by Hodgson from 1992 until 1995, including the 1994 World Cup finals, are number nine in FIFA’s world rankings, 11 places ahead of England.
The visitors will be without Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge because of injury but Hodgson said that not calling up a replacement showed England are confident in the other strikers they have, who are Rooney, Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck and Sturridge’s Liverpool club-mate Rickie Lambert.
“If you look at the squad that we’ve chosen here, you see the talent and the quality of the players, their desire to step forward and do well for the country,” he added. “This will be a big test for them. I want to see how they come up to speed on that test.
“I want the result and if you ask me what would you prefer – to play badly and win or to play well and lose, I’d play badly and win.”
Rooney, whose goal against Norway was his 41st for England, said: “If we get a positive result we’ll give everyone a lot of confidence to go on and do well in this group.”