Hodgson makes nine changes for Costa Rica game
Hodgson makes nine changes for Costa Rica game, challenges Barkley and Wilshere to prove themselves
COSTA RICA v ENGLAND
(Tonight, 11.59pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)
Roy Hodgson has challenged Ross Barkley and Jack Wilshere to prove England have a bright future ahead of them after their World Cup shambles.
Having been eliminated last Friday after two straight defeats, England's final Group D match against Costa Rica tonight is nothing but a dead rubber.
Hodgson admitted he is in "a realm of despair" after leading England to their fastest World Cup exit.
That despair will increase tonight if England are beaten by Costa Rica who, despite holding a 100 per cent record in Brazil, sit below Scotland (27th) in the Fifa rankings at No. 28.
Barkley, 20, and Wilshere, 22, will start in central midfield tonight.
The duo have just 12 starts between them, but are likely to be part of the England's re-building process, particularly if Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard retire from international duty after the Costa Rica game.
The England manager said: "I'm looking for them to show their talent. Both of them are very good passers of the ball, very good at running with the ball.
"Both, for young players, have good vision. That will improve with more games, but they're well advanced for their age. This is a chance for them to show they are good players.
"They have an opportunity to play from the start, and together in a game with other young players around them.
"They can show the faith and hope we have that those boys are ready to make their mark.
"This could be the first moment they give us an inkling that we are on the right track."
Hodgson thinks the nine players drafted into the starting line-up tonight all have a chance to impress.
He said: "I'm giving them a chance to go out on a fantastic stage and show they're not only players of potential, but they're ready to play on this stage now and won't let the team down."
With nothing but pride to play for in Belo Horizonte, Hodgson decided to name his team on the eve of the match.
Ben Foster will start in goal, behind Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Gary Cahill and Luke Shaw. Lampard will sit in front of the back four.
Barkley and Wilshere will play in central midfield, with Adam Lallana and James Milner on the flanks.
Daniel Sturridge will start his third straight match up front, with nine changes in total.
Hodgson is grateful to be backed by the Football Association, who will not sack the England boss even if the team lose tonight. He is also glad to get the support of England fans in Brazil.
"We're very conscious that our fans are as disappointed and devastated as we are, and still supporting us," he said.
"We had kind words and sympathy (from some of them) in the hotel, and we want to make certain they see something tomorrow, that they can take some encouragement from."
There may be nothing riding on the game, but Hodgson insists England will not be taking it lightly.
"It's a top-ranked international on the biggest stage, so anything else than taking the game very seriously and trying to win the game in its own right would be out of the question," he said.
"This is a game against the top team in the group, the team who have exceeded all expectations with their results and the quality of their football.
"We have to show we can compete with this team. And it's a chance to show our fans that we still have a lot of pride in our performance."
Even if England win, Hodgson says it will be hard for him to raise his spirits after events in the past two weeks.
He said: "From this tournament, I've realised that, at this top level in a World Cup, it's unforgiving.
"A moment of sheer misfortune can throw everyone into a realm of despair, that you didn't know was possible.
"Tomorrow's game will tell me a lot about the players.
"It's been a very tough few days and it's hard to pick yourselves up for a game that, even if you do well in, serves no purpose."
Hodgson confirmed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Leighton Baines (hamstring) are unavailable for the match. - PA Sport.
GROUP D EQUATION
- Costa Rica have already qualified for the last 16 and need just a point against England to secure top spot in the group.
- England are out.
- Italy need only to draw with Uruguay to advance to the last 16.
- Italy or Uruguay could still snatch top spot if either side win and Costa Rica lose, and they possess superior goal difference or goals scored by the end. If it goes to head-to-head record, Costa Rica would trump either team.