Even though England came into the World Cup without a great deal of expectation, who’d have thought that their clash with Costa Rica would be a dead-rubber affair?
Losses against Italy and Uruguay have confirmed Roy Hodgson’s side’s early elimination, while Costa Rica have upset the odds by qualifying for the knockout stage.
With nothing to play for in Belo Horizonte for England, Hodgson will likely send out the nation’s young guns to give them experience on the big stage. However, with the embarrassment of three defeats out of three looming large, they’ll need to ignore the magnitude of the occasion and focus on the task at hand.
Venue: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Date: Tuesday, June 24
Time: 5 p.m. BST/12 p.m. ET
TV Info: ITV1/ESPN2 (U.S.)
Young Lions Hoping to Roar
England’s first elimination at the group stage of a World Cup since 1958 proved pre-tournament cynics right—the English simply aren’t ready for major tournament success.
After the Group D opener that saw Hodgson’s men lose 2-1 to Italy, though, spirits were high in the England camp.
With some thrilling performances from England’s young stars, including Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, it looked for all the world that England would find a way past Uruguay to keep their tournament alive.
However, it didn’t quite play out that way, meaning that Hodgson can afford to give his young players the chance to shine against Costa Rica.
Speaking with BBC Sport, the England manager revealed that he will be giving his fringe players a chance against Costa Rica, with Frank Lampard replacing captain Steven Gerrard, but said that fans shouldn’t look too far into it:
If you interpret that as planning for the future I would understand but basically it's not planning the future and it's certainly not sentiment. I'm making certain a group of players I personally believe have done everything they possibly could to give us some success on the field, coming home far too early and bitterly disappointed, get a chance at least to say 'that I wasn't just there for the ride.’
Other changes include Luke Shaw coming in to replace Leighton Baines, who has had a disappointing World Cup and picked up a hamstring injury against Uruguay.
Elsewhere, mercurial midfielder Ross Barkley looks set to start his first match of the tournament having impressed as a substitute in England’s opening fixtures with some superb passing and movement—per Opta Joe:
97% - Ross Barkley has completed 28 of his 29 attempted passes & crosses at the #WorldCup. Tidy.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2014
Players past and present took to Twitter to voice how they thought the 20-year-old should have been given his chance against Uruguay, including Michael Owen and Joey Barton:
Can understand Roy Hodgson's decision not to change his starting 11 but I still think he should play Ross Barkley.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) June 19, 2014
Not going to lie, I'm disappointed that Ross Barkley has been left out.— Joseph Barton (@Joey7Barton) June 19, 2014
Barkley now has the chance to impress and make Hodgson lament his team selection throughout the World Cup, but he’ll have a tough task against Costa Rica.
Though the Costa Ricans were surprise victors in their matches against Uruguay and Italy, they were good value for both triumphs.
As Opta Joe revealed, they had scored in each of their six World Cup matches against European opposition prior to the Italy clash, and with the form that they’re in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them now make it eight:
6 - Costa Rica have scored in each of their six #WorldCup games against teams from the UEFA confederation. Set.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2014
For England fans, Tuesday’s match is all about looking to the future. While being knocked out of the World Cup at the group stage is far from ideal, certain players have proven that major tournament success isn’t too far away.
It’s unlikely that either side will lie down with their respective fates sealed, so expect a tight affair in Belo Horizonte, though England’s desire to give their fans something to cheer may just prove decisive.
Prediction: Costa Rica 1-2 England