sport

Gamble appeals to England boss

England manager Roy Hodgson has admitted that he would be willing to stake money on the Three Lions winning the World Cup.

England fans across the country will be crossing their fingers on Friday when the World Cup draw takes place in the Brazilian city of Salvador.

Due to a change in the format, England could be pitted into a 'group of death' containing Brazil, Italy and the United States.

Should lady luck favour England, manager Hodgson might be handed a more accommodating pool featuring Switzerland, Honduras and Algeria.

There are many who think England stand no chance of going all the way regardless of the calibre of their opponents. But Hodgson is not one of them.

FIFA rules dictate that Hodgson, unlike a large number of the English population, cannot put a wager on next summer's tournament.

But if he could, he would place his money on the Three Lions.

"I'd put it on England," Hodgson said when asked where he would place a 10 bet if he could.

"I'd have a chance of losing it on Brazil so why not put it on the team I want to win it?

"We all know the result everybody wants and that's to repeat 1966. We all know that's not going to be easy but it's great to be there trying to do it."

Given that England are priced at 25/1 with Sky Bet, he would make a handsome return.

Although some will raise eyebrows at his comments, Hodgson seems bullish about England's chances of at least putting on a good show in Brazil next summer.

The tense coach that stood on the edge of his technical area biting his fingernails during England's final qualifier against Poland has been replaced by a much calmer figure.

Wearing a pair of aviator shades that would have not looked out of place in the movie Top Gun, Hodgson calmly chatted about England's hopes and dreams at a poolside table a few metres away from Vicente Del Bosque and the rest of the delegation from Spain.

The England boss does not seem to care about the prospect of being thrown into a nightmare group.

"We'll try and win every game whether we're in a tough group or a so-called easy group," Hodgson said.

"We won't regard any group as easy. We'll respect all of our opponents.

"We won't fear anybody and in the same way we will respect everybody. I think the players will be desperate to do well and go as far in the tournament as they possibly can."

Hodgson has been in this situation before, of course, as he coached Switzerland in USA 94.

But there is no doubt that this means so much more to him.

"When we line up and the national anthem plays before the first game it will be the proudest moment of my life," Hodgson said.

"I think that's how we all feel. This should be the pinnacle of a coach's career and his ambitions.

"It's not an easy job, that's been documented throughout the years, but it's an honour to have it."

There may be six months until the start of the World Cup, but FIFA has done its best to ramp up interest in the tournament this week.

A week-long procession of press conferences and sponsor events has been organised and no expense has been spared in putting officials, coaches and the media in plush five-star hotels around the draw venue.

Hodgson has only been in Salvador for two days, but the enormity of the task in hand has hit him square in the face.

"It's such a big occasion," Hodgson said.

"You know the World Cup is big but being here brings it home to me even more."

Such is the pomp of the draw, which begins at 4pm, that a host of former stars will feature.

Sir Geoff Hurst, the 1966 World Cup final hat-trick hero, will represent England. He will be joined on stage by the likes of Lothar Matthaus, Zinedine Zidane, Mario Kempes and Fabio Cannavaro.

Hodgson will also have a big supporting cast next summer.

He had a handful of helpers during USA 94, but a 25-strong team will assist the England manager in Brazil.

One of them will be new head of performance services Dave Reddin.

Reddin, who helped England win the 2003 rugby union World Cup, will help England try to deal with the pressure of performing on the biggest stage in international football and he may bring reinforcements with him.

"I'd like to think he will come with us and contribute a lot," Hodgson said of Reddin, who was a psychological coach with Team GB during the Olympics.

"He might also want to bring one or two other people, as he did in the Olympics, who can help us in other areas."