England choose platitudes over planning ahead of Costa Rica
Roy Hodgson wants to ensure everyone gets a game before England fly home
Roy Hodgson will ring the changes with his line-up for the final World Cup game against Costa Rica on Tuesday evening – although the England coach doesn't appear bothered by the result.
With the Three Lions already out of the tournament following defeats to Italy and Uruguay, their final Group D encounter against Costa Rica – already guaranteed a place in the last 16 - is a chance to restore some pride to English football, as well as begin the process of building for the 2016 European Championships.
But when asked if he intends to start planning for the future, Hodgson indicated that victory was less important than ensuring everyone in the 23-man squad gets a run out in Brazil: "I'm going to be picking the side with a view to making certain all the players, if possible, that have been with us here get some minutes on the field of play," said Hodgson. "I'm making certain a group of players I personally believe have done everything they possibly could for me and my coaching team to give us some success on the field, coming home far too early and bitterly disappointed, get a chance at least to say 'that I wasn't just there for the ride'."
Hardly the words of a winner, and certainly not the call to arms that England fans want to hear after their country's worst showing in a World Cup since 1958.
Hodgson, who has been reassured by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke that he will remain in charge of the Three Lions until 2016, has a wonderful opportunity against Costa Rica in a game that is anything but the 'dead rubber' some are calling it. Victory over the impressive Central Americans, the Group D leaders, with a team free of perennial international failures such as Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney would be seen as a sign that England have embarked upon a new era.
But according to reports 36-year-old Frank Lampard will captain the side against Costa Rica, a player who epitomises the underperformance of England over the last 15 years, with Gerrard a substitute. On a more positive note, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere are all likely to make their first starts, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has not been passed fit.
Emboldened by Dyke's unstinting support, Hodgson was in belligerent mood on Sunday at the press conference: "I'm very pleased to have that backing. Scapegoats are always necessary in times of failure and one understands that after being in football for a long time. You'd like to think that the people who are judging you are judging you on your ability, what you bring to the job, what qualities you have and what you can do for them going forward."
Gerrard, meanwhile, spent Sunday trotting out cliches at the official England press conference, telling reporters: "We need to stick together... everyone's hurt, everyone's disappointed... we have to stand tall and be thick-skinned and move on... it means everything to be out there in an England shirt. It was very small margins in the two defeats, games that could have gone either way."
That's England for you. Weak on passing, strong on platitudes. ·