Roy Hodgson celebrated reaching the World Cup by making a start on the John Williams novel Stoner, first published in 1965 and telling the story of a quiet farm boy who goes on to teach literature at the University of Missouri, living a small, ordinary life before dying at the age of 65.

Other managers would have spent the night holding court at the bar. Hodgson contented himself with a few pages in a comfy armchair. It was a quiet night, he mused, sipping on a glass of water at the Soho hotel and explaining why his fingernails were bitten to the quick. "That's been going on 60-odd years," he said. Nothing, honestly, to do with England's qualifying campaign.

Hodgson, by his own admission, has always been "a worrier", going all the way back to his first days in management at Halmstad, in his late-20s. Hodgson told the story of how, back then, he and Bobby Houghton, his close friend and manager of Malmo, intended to leave football at some point and set up business together. "We were going to retire at 40 and start a travel agents. We were young and our vision was to get to 40 and hopefully have made a little bit of money. It was one of those silly little ideas you have when you are young but I sometimes think of it now, 26 years after my 40th birthday, and wonder what would have happened had we actually gone through with it. I do wonder where we would be today."

As it is, he was here to talk about England at the World Cup, while his mobile phone chirruped and bleeped with congratulatory messages from various other managers and football contacts. Harry Redknapp? Hodgson was not willing to say (which almost certainly meant no) and, perhaps wisely, decided against responding to the man who had publicly castigated the FA for, among other things, being "clueless" and not knowing "a good manager if their lives depended on it".

But did he feel vindicated? "I don't know if vindication is necessary," Hodgson said. "I was chosen by the people who thought I would be the right man to do the job and I have tried to do it to the best of my ability. Now I am enjoying the moment because we won and we got to the finals and that, for me, was the be-all and end-all of these 18 months."

He would rather not "say something stupid" when it came to whether England can actually win the competition but he knew the question was going to be asked anyway. "Anything is possible, isn't it? No one thought it would be possible for Greece to win in Portugal [Euro 2004]. Or for Denmark, when they got their players off the beaches, in 1992."

Those, of course, were the exception rather than the norm, as Hodgson was acutely aware. Yet his answer was the sensible one. To agree with Greg Dyke, the Football Association's chairman, that England have no chance would have been seen as defeatist. To say they were going out to Brazil to bring the trophy back would have invited ridicule bearing in mind some of the prosaic performances in Group H. Hodgson got the balance right, just as he did with his team in their final two games.

In the coming months Hodgson will also have more important matters on his mind rather than having a stab at the predictions game. The usual pattern for a 23-man squad is to choose three goalkeepers and four centre-halves, four full-backs, four central midfielders, four wide players and four forwards. Trying to second-guess the names is futile at the moment, when nobody can be sure of injuries or form, but the cut will have to be brutal. Hodgson is such an admirer of Andy Carroll there must be doubts about Rickie Lambert. Ross Barkley and Tom Cleverley may have to get past one of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Jack Wilshere. Hodgson, having already used 50 different players, mentioned Ravel Morrison but, mostly, he pointed out it would not be easy forcing out the more established players.

Hodgson also has to brush up on his knowledge of England's possible opponents because, put bluntly, it is a little sketchy right now. "I would say Brazil and Argentina from South America," he volunteered, when asked who his favourites would be. "That's from what I know about South American football, which isn't a great deal. Of the Europeans, I go along with everybody else that it's Spain and Germany. I don't know enough about the Africans and the Asians to hazard a guess."

He was unconcerned by the fact England will be unseeded when the draw takes place in Bahia on 6 December. "I've told you this before. When I was working for Switzerland in 1993 and I was told we were the second best team in the world, I lost all interest in seedings from that moment."

Yet it is still relevant. England would have gone into the top pot had they beaten Ukraine last month. Now they can face any of the four nations Hodgson picked out as favourites. Though the irony is that being unseeded may ultimately be a good thing bearing in mind Italy and Holland are the same and will now be avoided. Switzerland, Hodgson's old muckers, are among the seeds England would be happy to meet.

The FA's schedule for the next seven months will include a pre-tournament training camp in the United States featuring two games, one at the home of Miami Dolphins. But their preparations go much further. Hodgson found himself talking about whether the grass would be the same length at each World Cup stadium. Then, of course, there is the heat and humidity. "It was a bit like the blind leading the blind," he said of taking Switzerland to the 1994 tournament in the US. He talked about trying to make sure his players did not succumb to boredom during six weeks on the road. And, yes, working out the best strategy for the Wags will be on the agenda, too. Penalty shootouts? "I haven't thought of that, actually." Stick it on the list, Roy.

At some point Hodgson will also have to reassess the Leighton Baines-Ashley Cole selection issue and here, for the first time, there was an indication that Cole may no longer be an automatic first choice. "Both have their supporters. Both are fantastic footballers. Ashley has been a lynchpin for so long. He has 100-odd caps. But Baines has always been appreciated. They are very good left-backs and Leighton has got his chance with Ashley's injury. Maybe I will be able to rotate them … but I am not going to say one is No1.It does give the manager a headache because I have to decide on one and whoever I choose will divide opinion."

For now, though, Hodgson will have a little more time to finish his new book. Though not too much. England's manager was asked whether he would be taking a holiday. Instead, he said he was going to watch "the Arsenal" this weekend. "I don't need a holiday, watching football is a holiday."

Roy Hodgson's possible England squad:

Goalkeepers Hart, Ruddy, Forster Defenders Glen Johnson, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole; Midfielders Theo Walcott, Andros Townsend, Michael Carrick, Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Forwards Daniel Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney