Roy Hodgson has said that he remains confident of qualifying for the second round of the FIFA World Cup™, but accepts England may have to beat both Uruguay and Costa Rica after their opening 2-1 defeat to Italy.
England produced some fine attacking football, but their defence let them down in the jungle city of Manaus on Saturday night. The unmarked Claudio Marchisio put Italy head from 20 yards and Mario Balotelli got in behind Gary Cahill to grab a crucial second after Daniel Sturridge had equalised.
Although the performance was encouraging, the reality is that England are joint bottom of Group D along with Uruguay, who surprisingly lost 3-1 to Costa Rica earlier on Saturday. England play Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday before taking on Costa Rica, and Hodgson believes both games are must-win.
"The fact is that if you lose the first game you probably have to win the next two," the England manager said. "The teams you play against have to win as well, but there is no way you can drift into the second round.
"Italy have the best start, as have Costa Rica, and we and Uruguay are on the back foot. We now play Uruguay and Costa Rica, so at least our fate is in our hands."
Hodgson was excited by what he saw from his young Lions and called on the squad to quickly move on from the loss. "We have to lift our heads now and make the players realise that if they can reproduce that performance twice more there is a good chance they will get the result," the manager said.
"It's never easy to take positives when you have lost, but I think we all need time to digest what happened on the field. My gut feeling was we did some very good things and there were some good individual performances. I thought all the young players did well. None of them let me down or their country down today."
Sturridge hobbled off in the second half, but Hodgson confirmed the striker only suffered a dead leg. England's only injury was to physio Gary Lewin, who broke and dislocated his ankle after landing on a water bottle during the celebrations for the equaliser.
Italy, meanwhile, are now overwhelming favourites to qualify, although coach Cesare Prandelli lavished praise on Hodgson's team. "Physically, we were a bit better than England, but I think England are one of the strongest teams at the World Cup," he said.