On Thursday, The Football Association revealed a World Cup preparation programme designed to address two of England’s primary concerns ahead of their June 14 tournament opener against Italy:
In scheduling friendly matches against Peru, Ecuador and Honduras immediately prior to the competition—as well as facing Denmark in early March—the body that governs English football and oversees its national team has lined up a roster of opponents that mimics the Three Lions’ trio of Group Stage foes.
No European team has lifted the World Cup in South America in four attempts, and in their six World Cup matches against South American opposition both on the continent and in Mexico, England have won just three times.
Not exactly a woeful record, but not enough for anything better than a quarterfinal exit, either.
Facing CONMEBOL’s Peru and Ecuador and CONCACAF’s Honduras should serve to prepare Roy Hodgson and his players for Group D encounters with Uruguay and Costa Rica. In an official statement released via The FA's website, the England manager lauded The FA for its efforts in arranging such helpful friendlies in the buildup to the World Cup.
“I was clear to those responsible at The FA that I was looking for Central and South American opposition ahead of the tournament,” he said, “and that is exactly what has been delivered.”
That the matches against Ecuador and Honduras are to be held in Miami should also work in England’s favour, what with Manaus being the venue for their showdown with Italy.
The June heat and humidity of South Florida is similar to what can be expected in the Amazon outpost, and with kick-off times scheduled for mid-afternoon, it seems The FA planned the matches in order to literally acclimatize its players for the conditions of Manaus.
If anything was overlooked in setting up the contests, it was perhaps the lack of a big-name, big-presence forward such as England will face in the form of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on June 19.
That said, with less than three weeks between the end of the club season and the Italy match, The FA could have hardly done better in presenting a more useful schedule to Hodgson—one they hope will play some part in delivering a first world championship in 48 years.