Hodgson impressed by Sterling

  • Last Updated: June 6 2014, 23:53 BST

Raheem Sterling has been busting a gut in training this week to prove he deserves a place in England's World Cup team.

Raheem Sterling: Pushing for a World Cup start
Raheem Sterling: Pushing for a World Cup start

Sterling will sit out England's final warm-up game against Honduras on Saturday after he was sent off for a reckless challenge on Ecuador's Antonio Valencia.

The red card appears to have helped, rather than hindered his chances of starting against Italy in England's World Cup opener though.

Sterling zipped across the turf in a full-on training session at Barry University under the baking Miami sun on Friday.

Hodgson has noted the winger's response and the England manager admits he will find it hard to keep Sterling out of his World Cup team even though he has only played 39 minutes in the build-up games.

"His reaction has been excellent," Hodgson said.

"You the saw the games and the passing practice we did today and I thought he was unstoppable at times. Some of the things he did out there were quite breathtaking.

"I'm disappointed he won't play (against Honduras). I was going to start him, but it doesn't affect his chance of playing in the first team when the tournament starts.

"He's still making me aware he's a player who can inflict an awful lot of damage on the opposition. He is an exceptional talent, along with our other exceptional talents."

If anyone can take credit for the way Sterling has responded then it is his captain and Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard escorted Sterling off the pitch following his dismissal against Ecuador and told the 19-year-old he must not take the red card to heart.

His words seem to have had an effect. Gerrard said: "He's very resilient. He was the best player in training this morning.

"Straight away after the incident I spoke to him in the dressing room and I said it was important he put himself back in the frame for Italy, and he's done that."

Sterling went over the top of the ball and took out Valencia in the dying minutes of the 2-2 draw, and the Manchester United midfielder reacted by grabbing the Liverpool player by the neck.

Both were sent off and Jack Wilshere was lucky not to join them in the dressing rooms for striking out at Valencia in the melee that unfolded.

Hodgson has reminded his players there must not be no such carry-ons in Brazil.

"We talked about (the incident) to be honest," he said.

"I don't think it was an ill-disciplined act. It was an over exuberant, slightly reckless act."

Sterling's absence for the Honduras game is a blow for Hodgson, whose attacking options on the wing were reduced following a knee ligament injury to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The Arsenal winger has had treatment on the injury over the last 48 hours and is expected to be out for two to three weeks.

Hodgson looks set to take the 20-year-old to Brazil on Saturday night though as his medical team are confident of a full recovery in time for the latter part of the group stages.

Hodgson will not decide whether Oxlade-Chamberlain will remain in his 23-man squad until next Friday.

"We will decide at the very, very last moment available to us, which is 24 hours before we play the first game," Hodgson added.

"I don't think that's a gamble at all. He's working very hard. He's in a positive frame of mind."

Hodgson still plans to release stand-by players Jon Flanagan and John Stones on Saturday evening, although they have been told that one of them will be called up should Oxlade-Chamberlain be ruled out.

Fellow stand-by players Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Andy Carroll and Jermain Defoe - who have not trained with the squad - will not be considered as potential replacements.

"Jon Flanagan has friends staying here in America, and John Stones will go home (on Saturday night when the team fly to Brazil), but I'll alert them that, if the worst happens, I'll probably bring one of those two back," he said.

"They're both fit men in top physical condition. But the chances, I hope, are very slim because we want to keep Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with us."

Hodgson confirmed the likes of Joe Hart, Gerrard and Gary Cahill will return to the starting line-up for the Honduras game.

The England boss is looking to fly to Brazil with a morale-boosting win under his belt.

England's first opponents in Brazil will be short on confidence when they land in South America.

Italy's winless streak was extended to seven games earlier this week when they scraped a 1-1 draw against minnow Luxembourg.

Hodgson does not read much into Italy's recent slump.

"I've worked in Italy. I know the Italian mentality and their players," Hodgson said. "They have a much healthier attitude to warm-up and friendly games, and the importance they attach to them."


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