Roy Hodgson has responded to Gareth Bale’s claims with a defiant message ahead of England’s crunch Group B clash with Wales on Thursday.
Wales star Gareth Bale last week said that Welsh players had more desire than their neighbours and that England “big themselves up before they’ve done anything”.
Wales went on to win their Group B opener 2-1 over Slovakia, while Hodgson’s men were held to a 1-1 draw after Russia’s injury-time equaliser.
That makes the stakes in Lens even higher than they already were, with qualification potentially at stake as well as bragging rights.
But Hodgson believes the Real Madrid superstar’s jibes were ill-informed.
“Receiving disrespectful comments is part and parcel of being a footballer and a football coach,” he said.
“I don’t ever comment on other people. I’ve been in the game sufficiently long to know every opponent has got an opinion, the other day it was (Russia goalkeeper Igor) Akinfeev saying we were the worst seeded team and now it’s Gareth Bale.
“They can have those opinions but I don’t have any doubts personally about our patriotism or desire and that’s the important thing.
“If he believes that that’s the case he’s welcome to that opinion.
“But we know who we are, we know what we are. We don’t have any doubts about ourselves in that respect.”
England may have felt deflated after giving away two points in the closing seconds against Russia, particularly given their dominance in a goalless first half.
But Hodgson was largely happy with what he witnessed, if not in terms of end product then certainly with respect to the qualities Bale had queried: hunger and intensity.
“It is a tight dressing room, a passionate dressing room,” he added.
“I would recommend anybody who does have any doubts about players in that respect to watch the game and come to me afterwards and show me where they’ve seen that lack of passion and lack of patriotism because I certainly didn’t see it.
“It’s very difficult to come and talk positively when something has kicked us down in last minute like it has.
“We’ll get over it, no question of that, we’ll bounce back. My hope is and my dream is that we’ll play as well in the next two matches and go on to do well in the tournament.”
Wayne Rooney rates Bale among the world’s best, but England’s collective quality means he is not getting hung up on Wales’ star turn.
“I think he is a fantastic player, probably in the top five players in the world,” the England captain said.
“He is the biggest threat for Wales, but I don’t think we will go out and man-mark him.
“I think we have to go out and play our game. They will have a lot to think about our team, too.
“I think we’ve got a good team, a good solid team and I’m sure it will be a fascinating game.”