Hodgson: England right to take Italy match
England boss Roy Hodgson is happy to go down the difficult route to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Hodgson on Friday unveiled his squad for Wednesday's meeting with Euro 2012 finalists Italy. It is the start of a succession of tough friendlies, that also include meetings against Sweden and Scotland over the next 12 months, in addition to Brazil and Uruguay during a planned mini-tour of South America next summer.
However, as he looked ahead to a qualifying group that includes Ukraine, Poland and Montenegro, Hodgson would not have it any other way. "No one could accuse us of taking the easy route to get a few cheap victories," said Hodgson.
He added: "But it is important to play top quality opponents. There is not a lot of point for me in assessing players against countries that are not really going to be able to beat us."
In an effort to run the rule over a number of fringe players, Hodgson has selected just three members of his starting line-up from the quarter-final defeat to the Azzurri in Kiev.
The squad will be captained by Frank Lampard, with Michael Carrick set to partner him in central midfield. Carrick's absence from Euro 2012 was the subject of some debate until Hodgson revealed he had requested not to be selected.
In fact, that decision was made in January, and reinforced twice more, only for Carrick then to inform former team-mate Gary Neville, now a member of Hodgson's coaching staff, that he was willing to play after all.
"Michael Carrick would have always been in our thinking," said Hodgson. "I was given to believe he didn't want to be part of the England set-up. He didn't want to be considered for the Euros so I reluctantly thought if people are not available they are not available.
"He has had discussions with Gary and me since and it turns out that he does want to play. This is an ideal opportunity to invite him to come and play for England again."
Midfielders: Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Adam Johnson (Manchester City), Jake Livermore (Tottenham Hotspur), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jack Rodwell (Everton), Ashley Young (Manchester United).