Signs of hope as England start to rebuild against Costa Rica
England in the 'realm of despair' after World Cup exit but young team offers glimpse of hope
The England team for their final group game against Costa Rica this afternoon contains nine changes from the side that lost to Uruguay on Thursday as the blame game over England's exit continues.
Manager Roy Hodgson, who said he and his squad were in a "realm of despair" after their early exit, promised to give fringe players a run out in the dead rubber and has been true to his word. Gary Cahill and Daniel Sturridge the only two survivors from the game in Sao Paulo.
Ben Foster replaces Joe Hart in goal and alongside Cahill in defence are teenager Luke Shaw and Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Captain Frank Lampard, earning his 106th cap, will anchor midfield alongside Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley who, like Shaw, is making his first competitive start for England. Up front, Sturridge will be flanked by Adam Lallana and James Milner.
"As if to rub salt into the wounds, England's final act at the 2014 World Cup comes in Belo Horizonte, the scene of one of their greatest humiliations: a 1-0 defeat to the then-amateur United States at the 1950 World Cup," notes Phil McNulty of the BBC. "The venue could now punctuate English football history as the place where they lose three World Cup group games for the first time."
The mood ahead of the game is hardly positive. "There is no point dressing it up: it feels flat in the extreme," writes Daniel Taylor of The Guardian.
The amount of flak flying around has even prompted Lampard to warn some of the younger players that they will get a rough ride from fans next season.
Hodgson knows "there will be people back home who will not want to reason when the alternative is to hurl a market stall's worth of rotten vegetables his way."
This is "another low in the England team's inglorious history, further evidence of the need for structural change," says Oliver Kay in The Times. But the situation is not as bad as it was in 2010, when England's future looked bleak in the extreme.
This time, Hodgson's youthful team at least suggests "there are better times around the corner... there at least is hope in the players who are coming through".
"All of which sounds far more encouraging than Capello's future vision in Rustenburg four years ago. The problem — the big problem — is that this latest rebuild, beginning against Costa Rica this evening, starts from an even lower base."