England rounded out their preparations for the World Cup on home soil with a comfortable 3-0 win over Peru at Wembley.
In a largely lifeless affair, Daniel Sturridge produced the brightest moment with a wonderful curling finish just past the half-hour mark to break the deadlock. It was then from two set-pieces that England’s reunited first-choice center-back duo Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka made the score line a comfortable one in the second half against a Peru team who finished seventh out of nine nations competing for a place at the World Cup in South American qualifying.
Such games before major tournaments, where the fear of injury is always high and the focus is on what is to come, are rarely exhilarating spectacles. And this was certainly no different. Ahead of the departure for the kick-starting of preparations in Miami, Hodgson started with a lineup that suggested it might well be the team in his mind to begin against Italy in Manaus in just over two weeks’ time.
That meant Jordan Henderson’s fine season being rewarded with a place alongside his Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard. Behind another Liverpool man, Daniel Sturridge up front, were the trio of Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck. The fluidity of that quartet certainly still needs work and the questions weren’t answered about the ability of Rooney, who looked off the pace, to combine effectively off the front.
There were concerns defensively, too, where England’s back line was breached on several occasions, with Glen Johnson making errors that will surely be punished when the real business begins in June.
But Hodgson will be pleased to have got a game under his team’s belt against a side who lined up with a defensively minded 3-4-3 formation that could well be used by Costa Rica in England’s final group game. The performance of Lallana again showed a player unfazed by the international arena, while in Sturridge, England have a player capable of scoring a goal out of very little.
England showed some positional flexibility in forward areas early on, but both the movement and passing lacked urgency. Indeed, it was Peru, despite doing little, who were the more incisive going forward. Andre Carrillo and Jean Deza both got in behind the England defense, before Joe Hart was tested by Deza’s deflected effort.
England showed signs of life when Lallana injected some pace into the attack with a good burst into the box, before a tackle deflected the ball into the path of Sturridge, who struck an instant shot just wide of the far post. The Liverpool striker was to prove far more deadly in the 33rd minute to lift Wembley from its slumber. From Johnson’s quick throw, Sturridge cut inside back toward the edge of the area to find space for a shot before whipping a superb curling effort into the far top corner of the net.
Before half-time, there were again signs that the defensive shape needs work. With Cahill stepping up and Johnson caught stranded behind, Luis Ramirez was played through onside and Hart had to make a good low save.
Johnson was again caught out after the break. This time his sloppiness on the ball allowed Carrillo to take over and a couple of seconds later it required a smart saving tackle from Jagielka to deny Deza. Minutes later Jagielka and his fellow center-back made their mark decisively in the opposition penalty area.
First, on 65 minutes, Cahill did well to get to Leighton Baines’s corner in a crowded zone eight yards out and got enough on his header to beat Raul Fernandez in the Peru goal. Cahill played his part, too, in England extending their lead five minutes later. This time Fernandez looked to have claimed a corner, but dropped from his grasp off the head of Cahill, allowing Jagielka to fire into an unguarded net.
The remaining minutes were interrupted by an expected rash of substitutions. Young Everton defender John Stones made his debut, while Raheem Sterling’s positive contribution off the bench in place of Rooney will only raise further questions about the merits of the Manchester United forward starting in Brazil.