England arrive in Rio ready for 'the real football' to begin
After avoiding injuries in the 'friendly' against Honduras the Three Lions prepare for Italy
England arrived in Brazil on Sunday just a few hours after their third and final warm-up match finished goalless against Honduras. The match, and not just the result, was not what England wanted a week before they open their World Cup campaign in Manaus against Italy.
A tropical storm in Miami forced the players off the field in the first half and when play resumed 45 minutes later England found themselves up against a physical Honduras side. Captain Steven Gerrard was one of several England players on the receiving end of wild challenges and the Liverpool midfielder later expressed his anger at the Honduras approach. "I thought there were some horrific tackles for a friendly. I got caught with a bad one," Gerrard complained. "I'm quite frustrated. I thought the ref was poor, the game was interrupted, there was a big one in the first half and they were doing stupid fouls. There was no rhythm, we're frustrated but relieved at no injuries."
Referee Ricardo Salazar dished out five yellow cards to Honduras, two of which for Brayan Beckeles, who got his marching orders midway through the second half for a high elbow on Leighton Baines.
The fact they got through the ordeal unscathed was the main plus point for England on the night, but manager Roy Hodgson revealed another after the game when asked about the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Arsenal winger limped off in the 2-2 draw against Ecuador on Wednesday night with a knock to his knee, but after initial fears he would be sidelined for a couple of weeks, Hodgson told reporters: "Oxlade-Chamberlain is making good progress. I think he'll make the tournament without a shadow of a doubt."
Despite two of his three warm-up matches ending in draws (England beat Peru 3-0 at Wembley ten days ago), Hodgson declared himself pleased with how the Three Lions are shaping up ahead of the clash with Italy. "I think the team was first class and we go to Brazil now with three weeks' good preparation," he said.
Asked if he was worried about his side's inability to beat the likes of Ecuador and Honduras (26th and 33rd respectively in the Fifa world rankings, with England tenth), Hodgson replied: "These warm-up games are... just a way of getting yourself to Rio and the real tournament, the real football begins. I'm happy we are going there in good spirits and the players have done all that we have asked them.
Having arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, the England squad checked into their hotel near Ipanema beach and later today will hold a public training session at their World Cup camp at the Urca military base in the shadow of Rio landmark Sugar Loaf mountain. With only five days before England's first game, Hodgson admitted he "pretty much" knows his starting XI. Any clues? No. "Whatever team I decide to use against Italy will be very, very competitive," he said. "I am sure we will show the discipline and organisation we showed (against Honduras)."