BELO HORIZONTE – Gp D: Costa Rica 0, England 0
—– All the England’s brave words about picking themselves up from elimination were exposed as mere hot air in the warmth of the Mineirao as they failed to find any rhythm or pattern and were held held by already-qualified Costa Rica.
Manager Roy Hodgson had made nine changes from the starting team beaten previously by both Italy and Uruguay and talked optimnistcially about the future.
On this particular day, however, but the youngsters struggled to stake a claim to lead England into a brave new world (or Euro).
Daniel Sturridge was too slow to take advantage of one early opportunity and then popped a headerover the bar after three quickfire corners. At the other end England keeper Ben Foster pushed an effort from Celso Borges onto the bar and over.
From England’s point of view it was a depressing sight with the players appearing to wish the final whistle would come as soon as possible and allow them to retreat from Brazil as fast as possible.
Hodgson brought on Raheem Sterling for the out-of-touch Adam Lallana after an hour to raise the energy level and Sturridge burst through on the right to drag a shot just wide of keeper Keylor Navas’s right-hand post.
Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney came into the game as late substitutes for Jack Wilshere and James Milner to try, in vain, to lift England to a pyhrric victory.
England finished with only one point, their lowest ever group return at a World Cup and the first time they have ever finished bottom of their group.
However manager Hodgson sought to look on the bright side after a difficult occasion for his young players. Six of the starters were aged 24 or under.
He said: “I take positives. This was a banana skin. To get that display was great since for many it was new. This is a very different team to the one at Euro 2012. We play different football. We pass the ball much more.
“We ask a lot more in terms of receiving the ball, turning with the ball and, in the final third of the pitch, we try things and take risks.
“The type of players we are choosing – in Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge – it’s clear that’s our aim and hope.
“We had nine players without any World Cup experience. There was only James Milner and Lampard [with experience], until Wayne Rooney and Gerrard came on.
“The back four were completely new to this and our keeper [Ben Foster] hadn’t played for a long time. We limited Costa Rica to almost no chances and had good goal chances ourselves though we didn’t take them.
“Another day we could have won the game by one or two goals because we did have a clear dominance in the play after the first 15 to 20 minutes.”
Veteran midfielder Lampard, who won his 106th cap, also thought England should have taken all three points.
He said: “It was the end of a disappointing tournament, obviously. We
should have won the game as we had the chances. We played some nice stuff, in bits.
“It was a difficult game for us to approach and I thought we did as well as we could but it was a shame not to get the win to take home.”
Hodgson reiterated a hope that both Lampard, 36, and captain Steven Gerrard, 34, would continue to make themselves available for England. Both have said they will consider their England futures after the tournament.