Roy Hodgson has insisted he is "not a person stuck with a system" as he was forced to defend himself from criticism ahead of Sunday's friendly against Brazil and the specific allegation that his preference for a 4-4-2 formation is outdated.
England's 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland led to Gary Lineker complaining the team had taken a "step back to the dark ages" by reverting to the formation that most of the leading national teams have abandoned. Lineker also predicted England would suffer badly in the Maracanã unless Hodgson changed his "predictable and dated" system for a match the Brazilians are using to prepare for the Confederations Cup.
"Well, that's a pity," Hodgson said. "I thought we played well [against Ireland]. What is the dark ages? We were playing two front players and asking at least one of those front players, when we lose the ball, to make certain he drops down and helps out in midfield. Just as Borussia Dortmund did in the [Champions League]final. Just like we've done in the past."
Hodgson said he was "not prepared to discuss what systems are modern and what systems aren't" but made it clear he felt the criticism was unjustified. "I'm never surprised by what things are said and done, to be perfectly honest. I can tell you only what I think. I thought a lot of the things we did were good.
"With [Daniel] Sturridge and [Wayne] Rooney, the way we went out was the right way. If neither of those two are available, we might have to do something different. I'm not a person stuck with a system, I'm stuck with principles and I am stuck in my belief that it's football players who win matches and you need to get your best players on the field in positions that suit them.
"I would be more than surprised if any of the players should be criticised for lack of effort, desire and intention. They should be criticised only for not taking chances."
The England manager is acutely aware, however, that his injury-depleted side face a formidable assignment against Brazil, in direct contrast to an Ireland side featuring only two players from clubs that finished in the top half of the Premier League.
"The games we're preparing for are a few months ahead whereas they [Brazil] are preparing for games a couple of weeks ahead.
"There's a major difference there. And let's be fair, four or five, maybe even six, players who I'd give serious consideration to playing aren't with us. So it will be a great opportunity for some of the other ones."
Sturridge's ankle injury, with Andy Carroll having already withdrawn, Danny Welbeck a major doubt and Jermain Defoe short of full fitness, means Hodgson may have to contemplate a more central role for Theo Walcott. His decision largely depends on Defoe's fitness after the Tottenham striker played almost an hour as a substitute for Sturridge against Ireland.
"We've been a bit unlucky with front players, that's for sure," Hodgson said. "We were quite pleased with the way he [Sturridge] and Rooney were combining in that short spell and I thought it was going to be an interesting 90 minutes to see how this young man developed.
"Jermain is not firing on all cylinders. He came to us not having played the last few games for Tottenham and he is feeling his achilles. He did a good job for us but we did miss Sturridge just as we missed Welbeck.
"But we'll have to get on with it and make ourselves as competitive against Brazil as the Irish were against us.
"Every time you play a game with England, even if you are playing without any of your first-choice players, you're still expected to get a result, even if it will be hard to get. We know it will be tough. It was tough for the Irish but they worked hard and got it."
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