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Roy Hodgson is confident that, despite England's two defeats at the FIFA World Cup™ bringing about an early exit, they have shown enough quality to raise hopes of a decent Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Consecutive 2-1 defeats by Italy and Uruguay have left England facing a meaningless final game against Group D surprise package Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday, after which the squad will fly home. In time, head coach Hodgson will turn his thoughts to the 2016 European Championship qualifiers, starting with an away game against Switzerland on September 8, and he says that he will take heart from what he has seen in Brazil.
"I believe England have a very strong basis for a team," he told newspaper reporters after his side's loss to Uruguay in Sao Paulo on Thursday. "It's very young. These players within the space of two years will play in the Premier league, and they will get better and stronger as an England team.
"I have never doubted (that) this team as it moves forward - not just to 2016, but on from there - will become stronger and better. We will just for the moment have to suck on this very bitter pill that our hopes and dreams have floundered here because we were unable to win the games."
Among the players who played against Uruguay were 19-year-old Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling and 20-year-old Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, both of whom have been blooded by Hodgson. Young players such as Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson have also gained valuable playing experience during the World Cup, while several players have sampled a major tournament for the first time.
Given his side's relative inexperience, particularly when compared to a wily Uruguay team, Hodgson felt that England's display at the Corinthians Arena augured well. "I think that bodes well for the future," he said. "It was a tough team to play against, tough physically. We had a bigger domination than we had against the Italians. For large parts of the game we kept them at bay."
He added: "Results colour everyone's judgement and I am certainly happy with the way the players have prepared for these games. I am certainly happy with the way we have approached the tournament and I am happy with effort they have put in, but we have played two experienced and strong teams and on both occasions we have come second."
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke has confirmed that Hodgson will be allowed to see out his contract, which expires in 2016, and the former Liverpool manager received unequivocal backing from senior players Wayne Rooney and Joe Hart on Saturday. Asked if his enthusiasm for the job was still intact, Hodgson replied: "My enthusiasm for football is not likely to wane and my enthusiasm for working with these players is not likely to wane either."