This dead rubber could not erase what has gone before. The personnel may have changed but England were still wearing the hangover of another tournament exit. They drifted into a summer of recrimination, barely leaving a mark on Brazil.
The locals are not exactly sad to see them go. “Eliminated, eliminated” they chanted at the England supporters making the best of a bad situation in Belo Horizonte.
Before the tournament, this was earmarked as a match in which England would target an important victory over a Costa Rica side with nothing to play for. Indeed, Los Ticos did struggle for motivation because their fate had already been decided but in the best possible sense, with Group D qualification assured.
With England’s bags already checked in for their flight back to Luton, this was a curious affair. In contrast to the penalty woe of Euro 2012, the battering in Bloemfontein or the galling game in Gelsenkirchen eight years ago, England went out with a whimper here.
This wonderfully enthralling tournament has no time for passengers. It felt like the party had moved on. Typically, England’s fans largely retained their humour.
One banner read: “Flights to Rio: £1,200. Enjoying the ambience: £2,000. Accommodation: £2,000. Arriving after elimination: priceless.”
Some of the crowd showed greater interest in tossing a beach ball around than anything a sterile first half generated.
England fans mustered a degree of defiance early on, raising a chorus of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” moments before Daniel Sturridge collected Jack Wilshere’s 11th-minute pass and drifted a shot just wide.
Celso Borges struck a free-kick which required a fine save from Ben Foster. Sturridge had a reasonable penalty shout when eased off the ball by Oscar Duarte. Ross Barkley then jinked across the edge of the box and screwed a shot wide.
This had been billed as a chance for England’s young players to end a disappointing campaign by planting a seed of hope for the future, a scintilla of optimism for Euro 2016.
If this was in one sense the first game on a new path, it had the feel of a pre-season friendly. It also provided another exhibition of several England shortcomings exposed by Italy and Uruguay. It will not take many more games like this for critics to start questioning whether Sturridge is clinical enough in front of goal at this level.
The Liverpool striker has a refreshing willingness to take risks on the ball and at 24, he can improve with experience, but little he tried came off here and it is a fine line between creativity and wastefulness.
England’s startling inability to defend goal-kicks reared itself again, too. Shortly before half-time, goalkeeper Keylor Navas launched a routine ball upfield and, without any intervention from anyone else, Michael Umana was bearing down on Foster. The defender lacked Luis Suarez’s ruthlessness and cut inside on to his right foot, allowing England’s rearguard to regroup and clear. There was a similar nervousness in defence, the same agricultural clearances when Costa Rica chose to attack with any real purpose.
England 0 Costa Rica 0 player ratings
England 0 Costa Rica 0 player ratings
1/22 Keylor Navas
Managed to cope with everything that England could muster. 7
2/22 Christian Gamboa
Did fine at the back for the South Americans. 6
3/22 Junior Diaz
Not quite as influential as against Italy but fine. 6
4/22 Randall Brenes
Removed on the hour mark after being pretty ineffective. 5
5/22 Joel Campbell
Did very little against England unlike first two World Cup games. Taken off after the hour. 5
6/22 Celso Borges
Played ok but not as attacking as before. Taken off for last ten. 5
7/22 Yeltsin Tejeda
Yeltsin Tejeda Played fine but never really a threat. 6
8/22 Bryan Ruiz
A couple of moments of quality skill but not very effect on his worst game of the World Cup so far. 6
9/22 Roy Miller
First start of the World Cup and performed well. 7
10/22 Giancarlo Gonzalez
Was solid at the back and gave England very little. 7
11/22 Oscar Duarte
Constantly good performer for Costa Rica and did well again. 7
12/22 Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge England’s likeliest player to score, with ambitious efforts from the edge of the box in the first half and closer chances after that, but no success. 5
13/22 Adam Lallana
Lallana Some sharp runs round the corner, trying to out-wit the Costa Rican defence, and a few nice touches, but never too influential before he was taken off. 5
14/22 Ross Barkley
Not especially involved in play but he still can produce exciting moments, like when he made himself room to shoot with his left early in the second half. 5
15/22 James Milner
Worked tirelessly down the wings, as he always does, chasing passes but not always creating chances for team-mates when he got on the ball. 6
16/22 Jack Wilshere
The most dangerous of England’s new players, he drove forward with the ball, played with his head up and sparked England’s best moves. 7
17/22 Frank Lampard
Showed his years of experience with a controlling performance at the base of the midfield, giving a glimpse of the type of player England have missed. 6
18/22 Luke Shaw
As secure as any 18-year-old full-back on World Cup debut has a right to be, storming up and down the line, solid on and off the ball. 6
19/22 Chris Smalling
Solid defensively, although with not much to marshal, Smalling was slightly better with the ball than Phil Jagielka without quite being at the level England need. 6
20/22 Gary Cahill
On his third straight start, Cahil looked assured against opponents who were not as ambitious as they had been in their first two games. 6
21/22 Phil Jones
Never looked especially controlled, either while defending or going forward. Has to work this coming season on establishing a permanent role for England and Manchester United. 5
22/22 Ben Foster
Did not have too much to do but made one brilliant finger-tip save from Celso Borges’ top-corner free-kick late in the first half. 7
But their minds were on the last 16. England’s were looking to the future. And as Sturridge continued to miss chances in the second half – this time a left-foot curled effort after another cute Wilshere pass – it was hard not to baulk at the amount of work England have to do to become a credible force at Euro 2016.
Many raw components are there. In Manaus, England played with a rare attacking cohesion; incidentally, does it say anything about their concentration on warm-weather preparations that England’s best performance came in the humidity of the Amazon jungle as opposed to the cooler climes of Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte?
That was rarely replicated here. But, if England were a little disjointed and lacking in understanding, is that not understandable given the nine changes Roy Hodgson made from the Uruguay game?
Ultimately, with Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard ending this match in midfield, this at times felt like a thank you to the past rather than a signpost to the way ahead.
The pressure on Hodgson will intensify as England finish this campaign with two goals and one point from three matches. A starting line-up with an average age of 25.4 is proof he is already looking ahead. It just would have been nice to sign off with more of a statement than this.Reuse content