Hodgson goes for youth in England’s Group D dead rubber
England’s line-up for their final Group D game with Costa Rica is as follows: Ben Foster; Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill, Luke Shaw; Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard; Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, James Milner; Daniel Sturridge.
A total of nine changes have been made, with just Cahill and Sturridge retained from the starting XI that lost to Italy and Uruguay.
Chelsea legend Lampard, whose contract is set to run out, will captain that side that, barring him and Milner, have gained a total of 106 caps between them. That, incidentally, is the same number of international games the 36-year-old is set to play – in what in likely to be his last appearance in a Three Lions shirt.
It does feel strange that Roy Hodgson, a manager at the biggest footballing stage on earth, has decided to leak his exact starting XI the day before – as if treating it like a friendly and having no consideration for other nations. Especially when Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica are all still fighting it out to finish top of this pool.
Nonetheless, there are no rules against it, and Jorge Luis Pinto has been gifted the chance now to prepare his side exactly how he wants, to ensure they win the group. Costa Rica are heavily odds-on at 1/7 to do so, while the Azzurri are priced at 11/2 and La Celeste are 14/1.
England are still odds-on at 4/5 to beat the supposed Central American minnows (7/2), despite them superbly seeing off Uruguay and then Italy to see themselves on six points – three points and as many goals ahead of the Azzurri.
Even though Costa Rica have caused these shock upsets, the Three Lions are under no pressure whatsoever, and this starting team are, on the whole, young and raring to go and show their older under-achievers how it is done.
They say that there is no fear in youth and, with the likes of Jones, Shaw, Wilshere, Barkley and Sturridge, England do possess a promising crop of up-and-coming talent.
Yes, it has been heard many times before that the Three Lions have a bright future, and we are still waiting to see that, but these individuals are undeniably gifted. They were all a key part of their respective clubs’ successes this season, still at a young age, and experience on big stages such as the World Cup can only be good for them.
Sturridge, who got the equalising goal in the 2-1 defeat to Italy, is now odds-on at 1/2 to be top England tournament scorer and is a 5/4 chance to strike again anytime against Costa Rica, or 7/1 to get two or more. Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, who cancelled out Luis Suarez’s opener in the Uruguay game, is 2/1 to be Three Lions leading marksman, and 11/2 to come off the bench and net last.
The likes of England’s so-called key players captain Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Phil Jagielka and Glen Johnson have all been left out, and it remains to be seen what the future holds for some. Besides Rooney, the others are all in or approaching their 30s, so this could be their last international game, and almost certainly their final major tournament.
Back Gerrard, who is two caps behind David Beckham’s outfield record of 115, to go out with a bang – if he comes off the bench – to score last at 10/1.