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Football: Hodgson encouraged by England's young lions

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

England manager Roy Hodgson has challenged his young players to carry the momentum from their victory over Brazil into their forthcoming World Cup qualifying matches.

Goals from Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard saw England beat Brazil 2-1 at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, as Hodgson's men kick-started the Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations with an impressive win.

Fred pounced on a Gary Cahill error to cancel out Rooney's opener early in the second half, but Lampard restored England's lead and with Jack Wilshere superb in midfield, the hosts held firm for a surprisingly comfortable victory.

England face trips to San Marino and Montenegro when their World Cup qualification campaign resumes in March, and Hodgson says his players should approach the games with the knowledge that they need fear no-one.

"I hope it gives them belief," he said.

"We had quite a young team, lots of whom are 22 and younger. The player who you (the media) have designated man of the match (Wilshere) is 21, Theo Walcott is 22 (sic: Walcott is actually 23).

"It really was a blend of youth and experience. We had lots of young players on the field -- Tom Cleverley as well, and Danny Welbeck -- and it was nice that they blended with the more experienced ones.

"And it's nice they're seeing that they're good enough to play in this team and help the team win matches."

Having seen Brazil threaten to take control of the game after Fred's goal, Hodgson said he had been encouraged by the way his players rode the storm before re-asserting their authority on the match.

"The most pleasing thing was the character we showed after the slightly dodgy spell at the start of the second half," he said.

"Against a side like Brazil, you make a couple of mistakes like that, they pressured us because they smelled blood, but we did well to react and take control of the game again. We were unlucky not to score again."

In Luiz Felipe Scolari's post-match press conference, the Brazil manager flashed a rueful smile as he branded Wilshere's performance "very good", and Hodgson acknowledged that it was becoming impossible to manage the hype around the Arsenal player's performances.

"I was trying to protect him from the pressure, but he doesn't need it," said the England manager.

"You can crank up the expectation as much as you like, because he seems comfortable with it. As long as he's comfortable, why should I worry about it?"

Lampard's winning goal was a characteristic demonstration of his sharp eye for goal, the midfielder stepping up to Rooney's lay-off and dispatching a precise 20-yard shot that hit the right-hand post and fell into the net.

It was his 27th England goal, taking him level with David Platt, and came after Rooney had taken his own international tally to 33.

Lampard's Chelsea contract expires in June, and with the European champions apparently reluctant to offer the 34-year-old a new deal, Hodgson voiced hope that his quest for a new club would not take him too far afield.

"I hope we'll keep Frank in Europe," he said.

"It's not for me to discuss -- that's between him and his club -- but I'm sure he'll have a lot of offers if Chelsea decide to let him go, and if he's not in England, I hope he's in Europe, which makes my task easier."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/football-hodgson-encouraged-englands-young-lions-0