Roy Hodgson says that his England players are ready to handle any provocation and dirty tricks that might be thrown at them in the World Cup finals this month, after keeping their cool on Friday night in the face of an aggressive Honduras team.
The England manager was scathing about England’s opponents in the 0-0 draw, admitting that he could not bring himself to praise his opposite number Luis Fernando Suarez’s team when he spoke to the Honduras manager after the game. There were seven bookings in the game, three of them for England, and the dismissal of Brayan Beckeles for an elbow on Leighton Baines.
On top of that, the England players found themselves surrounded by their opponents on a number of occasions when play had stopped after fouls. Hodgson said that it was crucial preparation for the kind of attitudes they could encounter while in Brazil. On Friday night, England’s Group D opponents Costa Rica had a man sent off, Giancarlo Gonzalez, against Republic of Ireland and Kevin Doyle needed five stitches in his head after the foul in question.
Hodgson said: “If we had played Sweden or Norway we know exactly what we’re going into, how those teams play and how they behave. This [against Honduras] is something different, the culture in those countries is a different culture and I think we’ve had a nice little taste of it. Certainly I was very pleased with the way the players kept their discipline, kept their shape.
“We didn’t even give them a sniff of a goal chance and sometimes in these games that frustration can lead to people doing silly things and you end up losing one. They didn’t react at all.”
The best players struggling to be ready in time for the World Cup
The best players struggling to be ready in time for the World Cup
1/8 Cristiano Ronaldo
The Real Madrid player has the capacity to take Portugal deep into the competition all by himself. If he's fit that is. The Portuguese FA have confirmed the £80m man is suffering from tendinosis in his left knee, as well as a muscular problem in his left thigh. It's seen him miss the recent warm-up match with Greece and he's expected to miss Portugal's other remaining warm-up games. Portugal's first game is against Germany on June 16.
2/8 Robin van Persie
The Netherlands forward has been forced to play down concerns after he was withdrawn at half-time in the recent warm-up match with Wales. The Manchester United striker said it was just a precaution, but that he was sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury towards the end of the season and reports of a groin problem persisting, the Dutchman has to be considered a doubt. Louis van Gaal will be keeping his fingers crossed that his side's leading striker will be ready for their first game against Spain on June 13.
3/8 Luis Suarez
There is no doubt over the injury concerns surrounding Luis Suarez. The Liverpool striker underwent knee surgery and is in a race to return in time. Varied reports over his recovery have been emanating from the Uruguay camp, with England among those paying close attention with the teams due to meet in Sao Paulo on June 19. His Liverpool team-mates in the England squad have said they expect to face the Premier League golden boot winner at the World Cup.
4/8 Wayne Rooney
England's talisman was shunted out to the left in the most recent warm-up match against Ecuador - but it did see him pick up a goal in the 2-2 draw. Questions over the Manchester United striker's fitness in the build-up to the tournament and that he was the only player to start both England's most recent games suggest there are concerns. He looks set to start in England's first game of the tournament against Italy on June 14, but will he be as sharp as he can be?
5/8 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
One England player certainly up against it is Arsenal's Oxlade-Chamberlain. The youngster was hurt in the warm-up match against Ecuador and faces roughly two-weeks on the sidelines.
6/8 Diego Costa
He might have been fit enough to pass a medical for Chelsea but there is uncertainty over whether he will be ready for Spain's first game of the tournament against Netherlands. Vicente del Bosque took something of a risk including the Brazilian born player who is suffering with a thigh muscle problem, particular considering the Spain manager left Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo at home. He and all of Spain will be hoping Costa can replicate the form that helped Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title, rather than see a repeat of when he hobbled off in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
7/8 Manuel Neuer
The Germany goalkeeper has not played since picking up a shoulder injury in the German cup final three weeks ago and is a major doubt for the tournament. Easily the best keeper in the world, the 28-year-old will miss his country's final warm-up game against Armenia. If Neuer, who is yet to train with the team, is ruled out then Borussia Dortmund stopper Roman Weidenfeller will step in.
The Ivory Coast midfielder is struggling to be fit in time for his side's opener against Japan. Toure has been struggling with a thigh injury since mid-April and has not completed a full training session with the Elephants. The dominant 31-year-old, Manchester City's star man in their Premier League title win, went to Qatar for treatment at the end of the season but has not been able to play in either warm-up game against Bosnia or El Salvador.
Baines said that he was booked in the fracas created by Honduras players that followed him accusing an opponent of going down too easily. “I think in the most part we did well to keep our composure. I thought some of the challenges were a bit harsh. The one on Stevie [Gerrard, in the first half], I was just happy to see him get up.
“But you didn’t see loads of us rushing over and making a meal of it, we kind of got on with it. I have got booked when I asked someone why he had gone down and all of a sudden there are three or four people pushing you around. You have to walk away from that because they are making a meal of it.
“We have shown that even in these moments we don’t really engage in that kind of nonsense. Whether it is picking ourselves up off the floor or just accepting it. There were a couple of strange decisions from the referee. It is what it is. We are happy to get down to Brazil with everyone in good shape apart from Ox [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain].”
The England squad arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning with Oxlade-Chamberlain on board. He walked out of the stadium on Saturday night moving freely, albeit with his knee brace back on his right leg. He is not the only injured member of the party, Roy Hodgson’s assistant Ray Lewington suffered a locked knee overnight last week and needed an operation in America. He is currently on crutches.
Phil Jagielka said that Raheem Sterling, sent off against Ecuador for his tackle on Antonio Valencia, had been unfortunate but that the squad had learned their lesson. “Different people react in different ways,” he said. “We constantly talk about that. You can’t do anything if you get sent off.
“Raheem was a little bit unfortunate. If the replay hadn’t been shown on a 400 foot plasma 12 times, he probably wouldn’t have got sent off. It’s part of competitions like this. You can’t afford to get silly bookings or get sent off.”