• England manager instructed players to bypass midfield
• Disappointed by former England captain's sniping
Roy Hodgson has admitted he deliberately set out his England team to play long-ball football in the World Cup qualifier against Ukraine that has led to prolonged criticism of the team's methods under his management.
Hodgson said he had given his team specific instructions not to attempt to play the ball around in their own half and instead to hit it long to Rickie Lambert, bypassing midfield if necessary, and then look for the knockdowns.
The England manager made the admission, explaining it as "tactical", as he sought to defend his team in the wake of Tuesday's 0-0 draw in Kiev, a result that keeps England top of Group H but with their chances of qualification still on a knife-edge. Hodgson's information was that Ukraine played a high pressing game and, to counter this, his players were encouraged to play the ball over the top rather than risk being caught in possession. "Did we play longer balls forward early? Yes, we did. We didn't want to play out from the back and invite pressure."
That style of football was described as "woeful" by Gary Lineker, a former England captain, and Hodgson has responded by directing some criticisms of his own in the direction of the Match of the Day host.
"I'm surprised anyone who has played for England, captained England and played in games of this nature can be that critical," he said. "This is the second time. My disappointment would be that I saw Gary Lineker play, I remember him captaining the team and playing some great games for England but I'm also pretty sure he played in some games when it wasn't that easy and I don't think every game he played for England was a total success.
"I try to placate most people but I'm afraid I've just seen a group of players missing seven first-team members beat Moldova 4-0 and come to Ukraine and draw 0-0. You can criticise us or praise us or do whatever you want to do but don't think you're going to put words into my mouth or get me agreeing with these opinions.
"I've been in football for 38 years and I will stick to my opinions. You can have yours, he can have his and anyone else can have theirs for that matter. This is the beauty of football. There are 60 million opinions out there but I will be surprised if I am walking down the street in the next few weeks and people aren't actually saying: 'You did well in those two games.' I'd be surprised. But we'll see."
Hodgson's views were echoed by Frank Lampard who made his 100th appearance for his country in Kiev. "The first thing here was not to lose and it was a shame that we couldn't win the game but we have to believe in ourselves that we can go and do it next month," said the Chelsea midfielder.
While England top the group, they have managed victories against only the bottom two teams, Moldova and San Marino. The captain, Steven Gerrard, however, feels sure they will go on to finish in first position and qualify for Brazil.
"I am really confident we can go and get the job done. It was a really difficult game away from home in Ukraine. The manager asked for a clean sheet before the game. He asked us to be difficult to beat and make sure that the group was still in our hands after the game.
"We would have liked to have won but I have always been taught, since I was a young kid: if you can't win a match, make sure you don't lose it."