England face their final World Cup warm-up match against Honduras on Saturday, with questions still lingering over the makeup of Roy Hodgson’s side to take on Italy in a week’s time. Against Ecuador last week, England played out an entertaining 2-2 that provided both encouragement and concern about their prospects.
A second-string defense struggled and showed England’s lack of quality options at the back, but going forward several players hinted that they were capable of making an impact in Brazil. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was one of those to impress, but his very participation in the World Cup is now in doubt following a knee injury suffered late on. Fellow vibrant youngster Raheem Sterling will also be denied a chance to impress against Honduras in Miami before the squad heads to Rio de Janeiro after picking up a red card for a reckless tackle on Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia.
It means that, of the inexperienced youngsters in Hodgson’s squad, Ross Barkley is now the one most likely to be thrust into the starting lineup in the crucial game against Italy. The 20-year-old Everton midfielder brilliantly set-up England’s second goal for Rickie Lambert, but Hodgson afterward pointed out that he is still far from the finished article.
“He's got drive, he's got energy, but he's got a lot to learn as well,” he said, according to the English Football Association’s website. “When he needs to release the ball, when he can turn with it, when he just needs to secure it.”
It remains to be seen whether such public criticism was a strong hint that he doesn’t think Barkley is yet ready to start at this level, or a bluff to attempt to ease the growing clamor around the potential future star.
If Barkley is to start against Italy, it will likely mean Wayne Rooney again playing on the left flank, as he did against Ecuador. Rooney’s form and fitness has been the subject of much conjecture ahead of the tournament, with former England internationals Paul Scholes and Gary Lineker among those to have their say. But Rooney has responded defiantly to his critics.
“To be honest, I'm not really interested in what anyone else has got to say," he said. “I'm interested in what Roy Hodgson and the coaching staff here and the people around me say. “People have their opinions but I don't agree with them.”
Rooney is again likely to start against Honduras to continue to build up his sharpness, while the likes of captain Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines should all return to the lineup.
Honduras could badly do with a positive result, or at least performance, in their final match before beginning their World Cup campaign against France. Luis Fernando Suarez’s side have lost back-to-back warm-up games against Turkey and Israel, 2-0 and 4-2, respectively. This week the Central Americans have also had to deal with midfielder Arnold Peralta being ruled out of the World Cup due to a thigh injury. Edder Delgado has been called in as his replacement.
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off from Sun Life Stadium in Miami at 4.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports and beIN Sports Play.