World Cup 2014: Ross Barkley presses his claim as Adam Lallana misses a trick

Southampton striker has an off-night as England attack misfires


Perhaps the elements were uncomfortable with a flash of England’s promising interplay in the final third.

Merely seconds after Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge combined brilliantly to carve Honduras open and create a chance the latter fluffed, referee Ricardo Salazar called a halt to proceedings.

Welbeck had fed Rooney on the right before dummying the return ball so Sturridge could spin and shoot from the edge of the box. Honduras coach Luis Suarez – yes, seriously – looked on in admiration. The combination was too much for Suarez and company to handle.

For if the principal positive from Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Ecuador was the attacking impetus generated by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, before injury, and Ross Barkley, this was the platform for Roy Hodgson’s premier front four to deliver their riposte in the final rehearsal before opening night.

Hodgson had hinted in the build-up that Raheem Sterling has not irreparably damaged his chance of starting against Italy despite missing this match due to an avoidable red card but the Liverpool midfielder’s enforced absence gave others an opportunity to enhance their case.

Welbeck and Rooney linked-up early on to force a fumbled save from goalkeeper Noel Valladares before the moment that prompted the weather and the match officials to intervene.

The 45-minute delay interrupted England’s rhythm for although they continued to dictate proceedings, it was only when Barkley and Jack Wilshere were introduced at half time that Hodgson’s side rediscovered their spark.

If Barkley and Sterling have genuine chances of forcing their way into Hodgson’s first-choice eleven – and the evidence for the former is growing with each day – then perhaps Adam Lallana is the most vulnerable.

He was a peripheral figure here, only registering an influence when fouling Roger Espinoza midway through the second period, and the raw pace of Sterling felt like an appealing alternative. Certainly if the Liverpool winger’s training performances continue to prompt Hodgson (right)  into using words like “unstoppable” and “breathtaking” as he did last week, Sterling’s case could become overwhelming.

The argument in favour of Barkley is following a similar trajectory. England began the second period rejuvenated by the presence of the Everton midfielder, who almost immediately tried his luck with a curling effort from 25 yards.

He then fed Sturridge, who wasted a promising opening by chipping the ball over the bar before Honduras defender Victor Bernardez was forced to deny Barkley after another  sweeping move involving Welbeck and Wilshere.

Noticeably, England were not weakened by Rooney’s withdrawal. With Sturridge heading Glen Johnson’s 73rd-minute cross over the bar to complete a profligate evening from the man leading the chase to lead the line in Brazil, the lines between first-choice and backup alternatives seem blurred.

England had endure  robust and over-zealous tackles but they were unable to break down Honduras despite playing the final 25 minutes against ten men.

Welbeck was industrious on the left. His pace and agility will be useful in the humidity of Manaus but if Sturridge is not firing and Rooney remains below his best, England could lack the clinical touch needed in front of goal in Group D campaign.

Barkley and Wilshere did their best to generate some intricate build-up play around a heavily-guarded Honduras penalty area – Welbeck stabbed one effort towards goal which forced Valladares into a save – but although England continued to come forward in search of a breakthrough, the South Americans were hardly desperate in their defending.

The temperature was higher than against Ecuador, there were more fans inside the ground and with combative nature of the game, this felt a step closer to the real thing.

Hodgson was at pains to underline the folly in drawing definitive conclusions from warm-up matches; England’s front four certainly did not provide any conclusive answers.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'