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.”
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.”
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