No one expected this. England's final warm-up match ahead of their trip to Rio for the World Cup was a bizarre experience, a concoction of extreme weather and a series of nasty incidents that threatened the participation of their players at the tournament in Brazil.
They will have been happy enough to have escaped with a 0-0 draw and remain undefeated on their three-game pre-tournament tour, but, most of all, they will be relieved they have a full complement of players after what turned out to be a rather nasty friendly.
A storm ensued after 22 minutes leading to a 43-minute delay, with supporters advised to make their way to the covered concourses around the ground for cover. The England fans, of course, remained in the stands singing songs, but when the match finally got back underway, they, like manager Roy Hodgson, will have been holding their breath as the Hondurans waged war with the England players.
A tackle from Luis Garrido angered Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge was taken out by Emilio Izaguirre before having the ball blasted at him from point blank range and left-back Leighton Baines was subjected to a series of poor challenges, ending in a red card for Brayan Beckeles, who caught him with a forearm. Beckeles had already been booked for a poor challenge on Danny Welbeck.
The fact England left without further injuries was both a relief and a huge surprise. Some of the challenges were wild.
England 0 Honduras 0. FT Best thing for Hodgson will be that it does not look like any injuries.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) June 7, 2014
Hodgson still faces some uncertainty, though, most obviously the form of Wayne Rooney, potentially England's best and most-important player, but one seriously out of form at present. It's an England squad full of youthful promise, yet Rooney represents their one world-class star. He played in the No. 10 role—his best position—yet for the 45 minutes he was on for he offered little.
Ross Barkley, who has emerged as the most-likely to replace Rooney should the unlikely happen and he is dispensed with, once again showed some nice touches. He's a huge talent, an extremely intelligent young player, but his inexperience means the likelihood he'll start World Cup matches is slim.
One positive for England was the performance of their back four. After looking hopelessly disorganised against Ecuador when Hodgson rang the changes, their first-choice back line of Glen Johnson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Baines looked far more assured here. It is almost certainly those four who will start the tournament in less-than a week's time.
Many expect this XI to be the one Hodgson opts for in their opening group game, and if that is the case, more will be expected from Adam Lallana, a player who enjoyed a fine Premier League season at Southampton. He seemed inhibited, unable to play with the same freedom he does at club level.
And Sturridge, England's most impressive player in recent games, demonstrated some erratic finishing. Not a cause for major concern but a mild worry nonetheless.
The temperature in Miami was close to 30 degrees with 60 percent humidity, exactly the reason it was chosen for preparation ahead of matches in Brazil. Acclimatising is vital, and England, once again, proved fairly adept at moving the ball around with neat passing to save energy. It's an experience which will help them in Manaus next week.
The delays understandably affected England's rhythm, yet, all-in-all, their Miami experience will have helped them. They leave better prepared than when they arrived, yet Hodgson still has some big calls to make.
After the game England flew to their base on Sao Conrado beach in Rio to begin the last week of fine-tuning before they take on Italy on June 14.
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