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Hodgson declares Welbeck fit to face Italy

Hodgson was left sweating over the Manchester United forward's fitness after he was forced to miss training on Wednesday with a thigh injury.

The 23-year-old picked the knock up in the session a day earlier, putting the attacker's starting position in even more doubt, with many calling for Raheem Sterling to replace him.

However, Hodgson revealed in his pre-match press conference in Manaus that Welbeck – who netted four times in eight qualifiers – is fit and available to start against Italy on Saturday.

"Yes, Danny is fit," Hodgson said.

"We are very fortunate that after four weeks of preparation and friendly matches, the only player not available in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I think we have done quite well there."

Much of the build-up to the match has centred on the state of the patchy pitch at the Arena Amazonia, with ground staff spraying green paint on to browner areas of the grass.

Hodgson, however, insisted he has no worries about the playing surface or the humid climate, which some have suggested may prove to be a stumbling block for the English.

He added: "I've just been on it (the pitch) now. I think it is fine and very flat. I see no reason to be concerned with it.

"We'll be happy to play on the pitch and I think it will suit both teams as it will be possible to play good football on it.

"We aren't concerned about heat quite frankly. Games here in Brazil will be played in very different conditions."

England captain Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, has been involved in six different England squads at major international competitions, but he said he believes the current collective is the best.

"It is difficult to judge," he began. "But as you can see there is a great atmosphere and togetherness

"I think we are a better team this tournament, a better squad, confidence is higher and we're moving in the right direction.

"I feel we are ready, focused and we can't wait to get going tomorrow. There has been a lot of support but now the serious stuff begins now."