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Football: Hodgson grapples with line-up for Brazil test

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Playing Brazil is normally regarded as the toughest test an international team can face, but England manager Roy Hodgson's biggest concern ahead of Wednesday's friendly is who to leave out of his side.

Hodgson has now been in charge of England for nine months and although their Euro 2012 campaign highlighted limitations in his squad, there have been consistent signs of progress since then, notwithstanding a friendly defeat in Sweden in their last fixture when Zlatan Ibrahimovic stole the show.

Even a quick glance at the current Premier League season, however, is enough to reveal a high number of teams fielding a core of English players, and a string of England internationals in encouraging form.

The return of Jack Wilshere to Arsenal's side after injury, for instance, has provided England fans with hope, together with a rapid improvement by Theo Walcott, who has scored 18 goals already this season.

Liverpool have given a lifeline to striker Daniel Sturridge and Manchester United can field almost a whole team of English internationals including Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young.

The biggest dilemma for Hodgson is at left-back, where Chelsea's Ashley Cole is due to win his 100th cap against Brazil despite a serious challenge from in-form Everton man Leighton Baines.

"It's a difficult one," admits Hodgson.

"In a friendly, you can give them 45 minutes each. But there will come a time when both are fit and raring to go and we have an important match and both want to start and I will have to disappoint one of them.

"But if I'm to be honest, that's how it should be if you are the manager of a top footballing nation. A country like ours should have a couple of good choices in each position. The Brazilians certainly do.

"I'm looking at their squad and there's probably another 10 or 12 that we could name that could easily have got in there. We want the same."

Midfield is one area where Hodgson is spoilt for choice, with Wilshere, Carrick, captain Steven Gerrard, Tom Cleverley and Frank Lampard all fighting for central places.

"The fact is they are all stars in their own right," admitted Hodgson.

"Lampard is to Chelsea what Gerrard is to Liverpool, what Wilshere could become for Arsenal, what Carrick is to Man United.

"You are not exactly comparing small clubs there. We've got to accept that and I'll expect the players to accept that.

"I'll make my decisions as honestly as I can and it certainly won't be through lack of respect for the one I leave out."

Hodgson has confirmed he will field his strongest possible side against Brazil, who are one of a string of high-profile friendly opponents lined up this year to mark the Football Association's 150th anniversary.

That could mean Gerrard and Wilshere being paired together for the first time.

"There's no reason why that can't work," Hodgson said.

"I watched them play against each other for Arsenal and Liverpool recently. You can't force relationships on people, but I thought that their performances were exactly what you would want to see from two top players.

"I thought they were respectful. There was not one foul."

Wednesday's match at Wembley sees Brazil's new coaching team of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari and technical director Carlos Alberto Parreira take charge for the first time since replacing Mano Menezes at the helm.

"We're talking about two people who know what it's like to be a Brazil manager, who know the country, who know the culture, who know the press and the mass media and what the fans expect," said Hodgson.

"I think they've given the job to two very good pairs of hands. But of course it'll be a big night for them.

"I reckon Phil and Carlos Alberto will be thinking 'We could have had an easier start than England at Wembley.' So it's our job to ensure they don't get an easy start. We think this is going to be a great occasion."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130202/football-hodgson-grapples-line-brazil-test