LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - England manager Roy Hodgson has launched a staunch defence of his team after his side's performance in the 0-0 draw in Ukraine on Tuesday drew widespread criticism.
A point from a forgettable match in Kiev kept England on course for next year's World Cup finals but the negative tactics and lack of flair were seen as further evidence that Hodgson's side are falling behind the world's best.
Former England striker Gary Lineker and now BBC presenter described the performance as "woeful".
However, Hodgson seemed baffled by the reaction and took Lineker to task.
"I'm surprised anyone who has played for England, captained England and played in games of this nature can be that critical," Hodgson was quoted in British newspapers.
"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 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."
Hodgson said Lineker was out of step with the public.
"I will be surprised if I'm 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."
England have been hard to beat since Hodgson took over from Fabio Capello, losing just once in his 20 games.
They have rarely looked like a side capable of challenging for major honours though, and were outplayed by Italy in last year's Euro 2012 quarter-finals before losing on penalties.
So far in the qualifying campaign for the World Cup, their only wins have been against San Marino and Moldova.
Captain Steven Gerrard also defended England's performance.
"The manager asked us for a clean sheet before the game," Gerrard said in the Guardian. "He asked us to be difficult to beat and make sure the group was still in our hands." (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O'Brien)